Can A New Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Bill Pass into Law?

By Dan Cadman, May 11, 2017

Several Republican members of Congress are reported to be working with the Trump White House to craft a border security and interior immigration enforcement bill.

According to the story:

The legislation is still in flux, though copies of an early draft have floated around Washington. The focus will be strengthening defenses at the border and enforcement of immigration laws in the interior of the US, and will likely include a mix of upping resources and staffing at the border as well as tweaking some immigration law and authorities to clear the way for more aggressive immigration enforcement, according to sources familiar with the direction.

This is potentially good news, depending, of course, on the details in the draft legislation. There are a number of prior bills laying fallow that contain some excellent, well-thought-out provisions that could help form the basis of the new effort, but whether that will prove to be the case remains to be seen.

But that isn't the only hurdle. Tal Kopan, the CNN journalist who wrote the online story, says this:

It is highly unlikely that many Democrats would vote for a bill that beefs up enforcement without relief of undocumented immigrants living in the US, so lawmakers will need the support of the full Republican conference to pass such a bill in the House, plus would need a few moderate Democrats in the Senate to get to 60 votes.

Based on what we've seen and heard out of Democratic legislators over the past several months (since inauguration, to be precise), it isn't just "highly unlikely", it's a certainty that they not only won't support, but will go out of their way to obstruct movement of any bill out of Congress and onto the president's desk. While they are pretty much helpless in the House, in the Senate they hold the power to completely block the legislation. "A few moderate Democrats in the Senate"? Sounds like fiction to me because if nothing else, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will be cracking the whip to ensure that no Democrat crosses the line.

All of this is because of the arcane Senate rules involving filibusters and "cloture", which mean that instead of a simple majority, virtually everything requires 60 votes to pass through the Senate.

It is in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to kill the filibuster rule — he was obliged to do so on a limited basis in order to ensure that Neil Gorsuch's nomination to the Supreme Court was approved by the Senate. But for general legislation, he is a traditionalist and has steadfastly held to the rule, apparently fearing what might happen to Republicans in the future should they once again become a minority party. Of course, his unwillingness to kill filibusters may also hasten that day if the American people come to believe that Repubicans are unable or unwilling to lead and get things done when they are in control of the House, the Senate and the White House.