Hoeven-Corker Amendment and the Pelosi Rule

By James R. Edwards, Jr. on June 23, 2013

It's ba-ack! The ugliest, most monstrous procedure of legislative sausage making is now being employed by senators on both sides of the aisle. They're resurrecting this approach to hurry a vote on a major, humongous amendment to a major, controversial bill.

Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) infamously said of the Obamacare legislation that lawmakers needed to rush to "pass the bill so you can find out what's in it". I'm dubbing this the Pelosi Rule — an inadvisable, reckless approach that should never, ever be allowed for justifying the rushed passage of legislation under an arbitrary deadline.

In fact, the Pelosi Rule makes sausage making — recall your Upton Sinclair and The Jungle and the repulsive description of that process — sound appetizing by comparison. As a substitute amendment, the 11th-hour amendment just unveiled on Friday before a Monday vote amounts to a bait-and-switch move. Caveat emptor, senators!

The Pelosi Rule is being applied to fast-track the Hoeven-Corker amendment to the Senate amnesty bill S.744. The Senate majority leadership and the Gang of Eight are hell-bent on passing the Rubio-Schumer amnesty bill before Senators return home for the Independence Day recess and hear directly, face to face, from their constituents, the majority of whom oppose amnesty.

The 1,190-page amendment (that replaces the original bill) was negotiated behind closed doors by Sens. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) all week. Their liaison with the Gang of Eight, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), ensured that no provisions of the amendment were unacceptable to the eight senators who put the original bill together.

In other words, the Hoeven-Corker amendment got preapproval by the most open-borders, pro-amnesty lawmakers in the Senate.

To no one's surprise, the Hoeven-Corker amendment is rife with provisions making extremely bad legislation even worse. For example, the "fines" amnesty applicants will pay amount to a measly $2,000 (compared to $8,000 in the 2007 Bush-McCain amnesty) and visa overstayers — current illegals and those in the futureget rewarded with green cards and citizenship.

Purely on process and prudence, the Senate should slow down, continue debate, and open the Senate floor to legitimate lawmaking. Senators should think twice before supporting a nearly 1,200-page amendment before having had sufficient time to read it and digest it. If they have courage and character, senators would insist on the opportunity to review thoroughly the Hoeven-Corker amendment and take the Fourth of July recess before completing this bill in a sprint.

Then there is the whole "comprehensive immigration reform" approach that should be rejected.

At a White House summit in February 2010, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) observed of himself and his colleagues that "we've come to the conclusion that we don't do comprehensive well. We've watched the comprehensive economy-wide cap [and] trade. We've watched the comprehensive immigration bill. We had the best senators we've got working on that in a bipartisan way. We've watched the comprehensive health care bill. And they fall of their own weight."

Lawmakers who desire to act in the best interest of the country and of their constituents would be wise to chuck the Pelosi Rule and comprehensive lawmaking onto the ash heap of history.

Instead, they would do well to adopt the Alexander Rule of targeted, narrow, and prudently crafted measures that address discrete aspects of policy. Otherwise, the outcome will be that we will find out over time that a lot of things in the comprehensive immigration bill don't work, will backfire, we don't like, and are irreversible — to the nation's detriment.