Comment: Endgame For 111th Nears - The endgame of the 111th Congress is now playing out. Several pieces of large legislation, hundreds of pages long (and in one case, almost 2,000 pages long) are in play. The reason this is important is that many important immigration bills have historically been shoe-horned into large bills, typically appropriations bills, at the end of Congressional terms. Several immigration-related issues may make it into law this time also. We examine below the large bills still in play, and the several immigration related issues which are also in play.
The large bills still unresolved are: A almost 2,000 page Omnibus Appropriations bill for the balance of FY 2011, the tax cut bill, a major lands/water bill. The foregoing are issues for both chambers, but the Senate has additional time-consuming matters on its hands: the START treaty on which floor discussion and amendments are ongoing, and hundreds of nominations, particularly judicial nominations which are pending. Another drain on the Senate's time will be the stand-alone bill for DADT repeal which cleared the House earlier this week, and is all set for a showdown on the Senate floor.
The immigration issues are of course DREAM, and numerous provisions in the Omnibus Appropriations Bills, in Divisions B, F, H and K of the current draft. These numerous provisions include funding for various immigration programs, with several levels of funding going up and down from the previous fiscal year, and several immigration-related earmarks, including some for ICE.
Here is our best look at the Crystal Ball on how the Congressional schedule, especially the Senate schedule will play out, and what this means for the immigration-related provisions, including DREAM. Given that the Senate has taken up the START treaty in earnest, and given that the House is likely to take its last shot on the tax cut bill soon, both these political behemoths should be out of the way by early next week. The big issues pending then will be: the Omnibus, the lands/water bill, DADT repeal, DREAM, and of course, the nominations. Should even one Republican Senator object to each of these, it is impossible to finish all of these in the Senate before the 112th Congress convenes, even should the 111th Congress work on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. So, either things will get dropped, or combined (except for nominations, which cannot be combined). Combination is politically tricky, since the votes on all these issues are not 100% aligned. Two scenarios present themselves as likely: (1) the Omnibus is dropped in favor of a short-term Continuing Resolution, the nominations are postponed to the next Congress, and the lands/water bill is forgotten. If this scenario happens, this will leave the stage clear for votes on DADT and DREAM, and the way things stand now in the Senate, DADT will likely pass, and DREAM will likely fail. However, there is another possible scenario - (2) the 6,000+ earmarks for $8 billion in the Omnibus will carry the day on the Senate floor, and if this happens, the lands/water bill, DADT, and DREAM will all likely be collapsed into one giant 3,000 page bill. If this scenario happens, the giant bill, with DREAM in it, will almost certainly pass. In other words, the fate of DREAM is likely tied up in whether enough Republican Senators (including some notorious DREAM opposers) want their earmarks badly enough. We will find out soon, stay tuned to Immigration Daily - never a dull moment at the end of any Congressional term!
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