Morning Action: Heritage Hosts Immigration Discussion Today at 1 P.M. ET
IMMIGRATION. The Heritage Foundation will host a conversation about immigration reform at 1 p.m. ET today with Heritage expert Derrick Morgan (@ddmorganindc), Heritage Action’s Jessica Anderson (@JessAnderson2), Isaiah Cohen, whose fiancé is waiting to come lawfully from the U.S. from the Philippines (@Yeshaya_C), and Virginia Prodan (@VirginiaProdan), a Dallas attorney who escaped Communist Romania and was granted political asylum by the United States in 1988.
It appears increasingly unlikely that the House will pass a comprehensive immigration bill. The Heritage Foundation has long advised a step-by-step approach. Differences in opinion between Republicans and Democrats in the House mean that they will likely take a step-by-step approach (sub. req’d):
Democrats and Republicans in the House dug in their heels Tuesday over giving a path to citizenship to people living in the country illegally, making it increasingly unlikely that the House will be able to pass a bipartisan immigration overhaul similar to the one the Senate approved two weeks ago.
Democrats emerged from a caucus meeting Tuesday vowing to oppose any bill without citizenship, while Republicans, who will hold their own immigration meeting Wednesday, say they will reject citizenship provisions such as those in the Senate bill (S 744).
To some extent, lawmakers are simply following the familiar script in Congress that calls for both parties to refuse to make concessions only to reach agreement as negotiations unfold. In this case, however, the solidifying positions complicate the already-difficult job of Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, in getting an immigration bill to the House floor. Boehner has promised not to bring a bill forward unless it has the support of a majority of the GOP Conference. Wednesday’s meeting could help clarify what most Republicans want to see.
FOOD STAMPS. If the food stamps are split from the farm bill, some House GOP lawmakers are pushing to reform the food stamp program (sub. req’d):
If House GOP leaders push ahead with plans to bring an agriculture-only farm bill to the floor, Republicans say they could also move ahead with plans to redo the nation’s largest food aid program for the poor.
Marlin Stutzman — the Indiana Republican whose idea of breaking the traditional pairing of farm and nutrition programs in a single farm bill has been embraced by GOP leaders — said that by splitting up the bill, lawmakers would have more time to make substantive changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Disputes over SNAP have roiled the farm bill debate for weeks.
Stutzman told bloggers attending a lunchtime event at the Heritage Foundation that a restructuring of SNAP could be part of a larger anti-poverty package that Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., and Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana are putting together.
STUDENT LOANS. The Senate has moved forward with negotiations on student loans; however, any proposal that does not employ fair value accounting poses a risk for taxpayers, as the true cost of subsidizing student loans remains unknown (sub. req’d):
Senate negotiations over reversing a federal student loan interest rate hike that occurred on July 1 seem to have boiled down to one main sticking point: whether or not to include a cap on market-based interest rates to protect borrowers and, if so, how.
The progress toward a compromise comes more than a week after Congress failed to prevent the interest rate on the subsidized portion of the Stafford loan from doubling to 6.8 percent before lawmakers left for the July Fourth recess.
Democrats are set to bring a bill (S 1238) to the Senate floor Wednesday that would extend for one year the fixed 3.4 percent interest rate, with a cloture vote set on the motion to proceed. But without 60 votes to block a Republican filibuster, it’s expected to fail.
Negotiations, however, are picking back up on a Senate proposal that is supported by the Republican caucus, along with Sens. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.; Thomas R. Carper, D-Del.; andAngus King, I-Maine.
ENERGY. Heritage explains that the House is proposing cuts to the Department of Energy’s budget and that such cuts would reduce duplicative, wasteful spending. Yet, even these cuts do not go far enough:
House Members who are proposing cuts to the Department of Energy (DOE) budget are facing bogus criticism that the cuts are an attack on science. The reality is that the cuts are attacks on subsidies and duplicative spending and, in fact, do not go far enough.
The lowest-hanging fruit for cutting are the programs in which the DOE is attempting to commercialize technologies to make them cost-competitive, including renewable energy sources, biofuels, batteries, clean coal technologies, nuclear reactors, advanced oil, and natural gas extraction techniques.
NUCLEAR FORCES. Heritage explains that the effort by House members to prevent U.S. unilateral nuclear reductions is a step in the right direction:
Representatives Mike Turner (R–OH), Mike Rogers (R–AL), Trent Franks (R–AZ), and Jim Bridenstine (R–OK) offered an amendment to the House fiscal year 2014 energy and water development bill that would prohibit the government from reducing U.S. nuclear forces in contravention of the U.S. Code. This is a step in the right direction.
Last month, President Obama announced he would seek negotiated cuts of U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals. However, section 2573 (b) of Title 22 of the U.S. Code, which is related to matters of arms control and disarmament, prohibits the President from reducing or limiting “the Armed Forces or armaments of the United States in a militarily significant manner, except pursuant to the treaty-making power of the President” or “unless authorized by the enactment of further affirmative legislation by the Congress of the United States.”
This means the Administration’s seeking additional nuclear arms reductions by means that circumvent the Senate’s role in the arms control process is illegal.