Capitol Building

Morning Action: Amnesty Rising, Gun Control Falling

AMNESTY.  Over the weekend, negotiators announced they “struck a deal on a new guest-worker program,” the last remaining hurdle before moving forward with a comprehensive immigration scheme.

Members of the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of eight,” which is crafting a comprehensive immigration bill, said they have not signed off on a proposal just yet, but are likely to unveil it next week. 

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The guest-worker program has always been one of the thorniest issues facing lawmakers, having previously helped derail passage of an immigration overhaul in 2007. The deal between the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce is likely to propel the legislation forward. 

“Business and labor have an agreement on the future flow [of foreign workers], which has been the issue that has undone immigration reform in the past,” Schumer said. “So this is a major, major obstacle that’s overcome.” 

Under the framework, the number of new guest-worker visas can not be below 20,000 or above 200,000 in any year. The agreement would also require employers to pay guest workers what they typically pay regular workers doing the same job, or the prevailing wage, whichever is higher. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another member of the working group, confidently predicted that an immigration overhaul would pass both the Democratic Senate and the GOP-controlled House in the coming months. 

GUNS.  Onerous and ineffective universal background checks appear to be a bridge to far for many Senators, including some Democrats who are up for reelection in 2014.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, said Sunday that universal background checks on all gun sales are “a bridge too far for most of us” as Democrats try to cobble together a package that can win 60 votes in the Senate. 

“We do need to strengthen the background check system, but universal background checks, I think, is a bridge too far for most of us,” Mr. Flake said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The paperwork requirements alone would be significant.” 

Mr. Flake — along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Democratic Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark L. Pryor of Arkansas — has introduced legislation intended to clarify issues surrounding mental illness and which people are legally barred from buying or owning a firearm. 

PRIMARY.  Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with Washington, and longtime lawmakers seeking to move up the food chain may find it increasingly harder to do.

Candidates in the Georgia Republican Senate primary are jostling for the furthest right starting block in what’s likely to be a crowded race. Already the question is: Can a member of the Appropriations Committee, through which all past spending decisions have traveled, prevail in the new GOP era of fiscal restraint? 

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The Appropriations Committee has fallen in stature in the years since Republican leaders banned so-called earmarks, the pet projects that members sought for their districts. Now the panel is focused more on cutting spending than on increasing it. 

Now, appropriators have become a reluctant bulwark against some of their more aggressive GOP colleagues’ efforts to cut discretionary spending. 

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Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, conceded that the appropriator moniker could be damaging.

SEQUESTER.  The Obama administration’s sequester hype continues to fall flat.   

More than a month after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned of “calamity” in the skies, travelers are still flying. Airlines aren’t yet canceling flights. And there’s no sign of the long lines the Obama administration warned everyone to expect when automatic spending cuts hit March 1. 

What happened? The much-feared budget ax is turning out to be a slow-rolling series of snips, with effects that have been much more gradual or modest than projected. 

Airlines have yet to suspend or cancel flights in response to the cuts, even though LaHood predicted during a White House appearance Feb. 22 that they would do so “within the next 30 days.” 

JOHN KERRY.  America’s new Secretary of State needs to give it a rest.  After failing to push through the ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty as a Senator, he’s trying again as Secretary.

[T]he Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST), remains on the table, with its champion, former Sen. John Kerry, now our secretary of state. 

Kerry gave a speech at the Ross Sea Conservation Reception on March 19 in which he suggested that we should have called our planetOcean rather than Earth. During that speech, he put forth a global environmental agenda centered around the oceans that he has made a priority in his career. 

In an Op-Ed for Politico last May titled “Joining Law of the Sea Treaty Can’t Wait,” Kerry claimed, falsely, that we needed LOST to safeguard our freedom of the seas, settle maritime territorial disputes, safeguard our access to ocean resources, and, most importantly in his view, protect the oceans from being a casualty of climate change. 

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Even in his new position, John Kerry is still pushing the Law of the Sea Treaty. #LOST

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