June 30, 2006

The Senate has agreed on a plan to overcome a procedural obstacle that House Republicans had been using as a reason to not enter into a conference on their respective immigration bills.  The problem was based on a provision in the Senate bill that required undocumented persons to pay back taxes as part of a legalization program.  House leaders claimed that the provision constituted a revenue program that under the U.S. Constitution can only originate in the House.  To resolve the technicality, Senate Republicans had proposed that the Senate strip a House revenue bill that had previously passed the House and replace its provisions with the immigration bill.  Senate Democrats had objected to the plan because it would allow a Republican-controlled conference to possibly insert additional tax measures without opportunity for debate by the full Congress.  Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid (D-UT) finally agreed to the plan on Republican assurances that no additional tax measures would be inserted into the bill during conference.  The agreement resolves the technical obstacle, but not the real one:  House Republicans who have stalled conference negotiations to try to build support for their enforcement-only approach to immigration.