Amnesty: Dangers of Conference, Part Two

Jul 24, 2013

Reports continually indicate that the bipartisan "gang of seven" in the House is close to releasing their secret immigration plan. By all accounts, there is nothing new in the plan except some fluffy language the Washington Post reports "could give some House Republicans a way to embrace comprehensive reform." It is clearly an attempt to garner support from House conservatives who "are still insisting on a 'piecemeal' approach or are opposing any action at all."

At this point though, wrangling over a comprehensive approach versus a piecemeal approach is meaningless. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told a liberal audience that piecemeal bills simply serve as a means to an end:

Get us to a conference. In a conference, we can negotiate the notion of bringing all those bills together and get to common ground.

The goal of the pro-amnesty crowd is simple-pass a bill, any bill (preferably one that includes some sort of path to citizenship) so that pro-amnesty negotiators can begin working on a compromise that resembles the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744). That deal making could take place in a formal conference committee or, more likely, a backroom process.

Some will point out that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) have vowed not to take up the Senate bill and instead promised to follow that piecemeal approach. No matter how well intentioned, the passage of any bill remains problematic. As Heritage Action has explained previously:

Broadly, going to conference means losing control of the legislation - meaning pro-amnesty lawmakers will gain control. Even under the best case scenario, House conservatives trying to steer away from amnesty will be a distinct minority on any conference committee. They'd be pared with pro-amnesty Democrats from the House and Senate and pro-amnesty Republicans in the Senate. The deck would be stacked to deliver an amnesty plan that closely resembles the Senate's Gang of Eight bill.

If the Senate-passed amnesty-first bill is truly dead, the House should avoid passing a bill, only to have it go to conference and be attached to the gargantuan Senate bill. This could give House Republicans coverage to support what would inevitably be a hugely flawed piece of legislation.

There is an alternative.

The Heritage Foundation has laid out a plan to strengthen our southern border and improve our deeply flawed immigration system:

All of the measures that could help build this kind of border can be achieved under existing law, fulfilling existing mandates for border security, and the regular order of congressional appropriations. The Heritage Foundation has been advocating them for years-and they do not require comprehensive immigration reform.

Rank-and-file members need to push their leadership on what the end game looks like. After the passage of the Senate bill, Heritage Action made clear the Senate killed real immigration reform by insisting upon amnesty:

The American people would have been better served if the Senate had pursued immigration reform through an open, step-by-step approach. But by pursuing an amnesty-first approach, they have precluded any further action. Amnesty cannot be improved and the House should not try.

The process undertaken by the House matters. Lawmakers understand this and so do their constituents. The base is watching.