After Protracted Battle, House Adopts Spending Bill without Defunding Amnesty
After over nine hours of uncertainty, the House of Representatives last night passed a $1.1 trillion dollar government funding bill that does nothing to stop President Obama’s executive amnesty. The bill, however, only continued funding for the Department of Homeland Security at current levels for approximately 10 weeks (until February 27). At that time, Congress will have to re-visit the issue of funding for DHS and TRUE immigration reformers will have another opportunity to halt the implementation of the President’s amnesty.
While we did not succeed in our effort to defund the executive amnesty, TRUE immigration reformers put up a stellar fight. Debate on H.R. 83 began around noon yesterday, and it quickly became apparent that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) did not have enough votes needed to pass the bill. Approximately 60-80 Republicans opposed the bill because it did not defund the executive amnesty and Democratic opposition to the bill quickly grew because of provisions in it that made changes to non-immigration laws (the Dodd-Frank and Campaign Finance laws, in particular). Some Democrats also objected to H.R. 83 because the bill did not fund DHS through the entire year.
As a result of this opposition, debate came to a grinding halt at about 2 p.m., when Speaker Boehner called a recess. He had two options, find enough votes for the bill or exchange it for a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would extend funding at current levels for a couple of months.
The forces driving the bill forward were strong. In addition to the banking provisions (Dodd-Frank) and the campaign finance provisions tucked into the 1,600 page bill, there were a variety of early Christmas gifts to other powerful interests. For example, the bill contained a provision to give Blue Cross Blue Shield special treatment under Obamacare and a provision that extends an agency designed to subsidize American-owned companies overseas. (Washington Examiner, Dec. 11, 2014) There was also a special provision to help the seafood industry hire foreign workers, certainly a plus for Senate Appropriations Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).
Speaker Boehner, with the help of President Obama, began twisting arms. With the Speaker calling Republicans and President Obama calling Democrats, it took them nearly seven hours to secure enough votes on both sides of the aisle to move the bill forward. At the end of the night, the House narrowly passed H.R. 83 by a vote of 219-206, with 10 members not voting (218 votes needed for a majority). The House also passed a two-day extension of government funding to give the Senate sufficient time to debate and vote on it. The Senate is expected to take up H.R. 83 either today (Friday) or Saturday.