The Hill reports this morning that conservative Republicans in the House have plans to derail the Senate immigration compromise based on a procedural matter. The bill includes tax policy, which according to the Constitution, has to originate in the House, and some Republicans have lined up to issue a “blue slip” stop to the legislation on that basis.
And, I have to tell you, this is my fault:
House conservatives are ready to stop the Senate immigration bill in its tracks with a potent procedural weapon should the contentious measure win passage in the upper chamber.
The trump card conservatives may hold is a constitutional rule that revenue-related bills must originate in the House. The Senate immigration measure requires that illegal immigrants pay back taxes before becoming citizens, opening the door to a House protest, dubbed a “blue slip” for the color of its paper.
House Republicans used the same back-taxes mandate for a blue-slip threat that derailed last year’s immigration conference. The new Senate bill still must survive two more weeks of voter scrutiny and contentious amendments, but several conservatives already are lying in wait for the Senate to “make the same mistake twice,” as one House GOP aide put it.
“If we get an opportunity to do it, believe me, we’ll do it,” the aide said. “I think it’s going to be a matter of who will get there first. A number of people in the House are dying to be fingered as the person who killed [the Senate bill].”
How is this my fault? During a blogger conference call with Senator John McCain, one of the bill’s architects, I mentioned a Boston Globe story that reported the removal of a requirement to pay back taxes before entering either the Z-visa or Y-visa program. The White House reportedly requested that section be removed, and I asked the Senator why illegal immigrants would get a pass on paying back taxes when American citizens don’t get that privilege.
McCain was surprised by this question; he hadn’t heard about the removal of the requirement. According to The Hill, McCain went back and reinstated the provision after my question:
The back-taxes provision that could trigger the blue slip came from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who continues to take heavy fire on the presidential hustings for supporting the immigration deal. McCain introduced a back-taxes amendment after a conference call in which Republican bloggers mentioned reports that the Bush administration had asked that this year’s bill not force the very costly process of tax collection among illegal immigrants.
“I’d not heard that proposal on the part of the president,” McCain said, according to a transcript of the call. “I would resist that.”
Some CQ readers (and some of the bloggers on the call) questioned McCain’s sincerity, but he apparently meant what he said. He put that provision back into the bill — and inadvertently provided a hook for House Republicans to at least delay the bill’s consideration. While any Representative can blue-slip a revenue-producing bill from the Senate, it takes a majority to enforce it. Given the heat from both sides of this debate, that may not be difficult to arrange, and it would require the Senate negotiators to start from Square One.
So, it turns out that I may have killed the bill, or at least unknowingly provided the means to kill it. Sorry about that ….