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Entries in Gang of Eight (4)

Wednesday
May012013

Gay Rights Push Could Endanger Immigration Bill

Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A push to include gay couples in a bipartisan immigration reform bill threatens to upset the delicate coalition backing the proposal in the Senate, Politico reports.

Under current law, Americans in a heterosexual relationship can sponsor their foreign-born spouses for green cards. But gay and lesbian couples cannot do so, since federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages. As written, the "Gang of Eight" bill leaves same-sex couples out.

But now, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), is strongly considering offering an amendment to the bill during a markup session next week that would extend the ability to sponsor a spouse to gay and lesbian couples. That provision could affect as many as 40,000 binational same-sex couples.

That could complicate efforts to pass the bill, because Senate Republicans who backed the immigration bill have already taken a significant political risk in supporting a proposal that would legalize millions of undocumented immigrants. Tacking on an expansion of rights for same-sex couples, another fractious debate within the GOP, might be enough to break apart the bipartisan coalition.

Republican negotiators on immigration have long said that including same-sex couples in the immigration bill would be a deal breaker. And if a large number of GOP senators decide to vote no, that may prevent sponsors from attracting the 70-vote majority they hope to achieve in order to force the House to act.

"Immigration is hard enough. Let's not go down the road of redefining marriage," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters last month, adding that the language "is not going to be in the bill."

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) echoed that point to Politico.

"It will virtually guarantee that it won't pass," he said. "This issue is a difficult enough issue as it is. I respect everyone's views on it. But ultimately, if that issue is injected into this bill, the bill will fail and the coalition that helped put it together will fall apart."

And as Politico's Carrie Budoff-Brown points out, the provision might also provoke a host of evangelical and Catholic leaders who have endorsed the "Gang of Eight" effort. Support from religious groups has been viewed by advocates as crucial to winning the backing of GOP lawmakers and approval from conservative voters.

But for many Democrats, the political calculus is different.

Immigrant-rights and gay-rights advocacy groups have been prodding Democratic lawmakers for months to include same-sex couples in the bill. And they were reportedly frustrated that the "Gang of Eight" bill left out that language after Republicans threw up a red flag.

"Our total focus is on making sure that we have the votes in committee to ensure that the bill, when it reaches the full Senate, does include our families," Steve Ralls, spokesman for Immigration Equality, told ABC/Univision last month.

Some advocates believe that if the Supreme Court decided to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act this summer, the ruling would give same-sex couples rights equal to heterosexual couples under immigration law. But they also appear to be wary of depending on a court ruling to decide the issue.

Democrats who back same-sex protections also believe they are negotiating from a position of strength, coming off an election in which President Obama won seven in ten Latino voters. Democrats also hold a majority on the Judiciary Committee and the amendment would pass if all Democratic senators on the panel vote for it. They don't believe that including the language will sink the bill.

"It's not going to kill the bill," Leahy said, according to Politico.

All of this could put sponsors of the bill in a tough position, making this issue one of the top ones to watch at next week's markup.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr162013

Proposed Immigration Bill Has Widespread Support

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., emerged from a White House meeting Tuesday confident that President Obama supports the immigration reform bill they plan to introduce Tuesday night.

“While he certainly might not agree with every single part of it, he was very supportive of the bill we have put together and simply wants to make sure we keep moving it along and get something done,” Schumer told reporters at the White House.

“No one’s going to get everything they want in a bill,” he continued. “But if we meet in the middle, we can do a lot of good for America.”

The bill would create a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, but only after steps are taken to increase border security.

McCain said that, unlike previous reform efforts, this legislation has widespread support.

“All major players that are involved in this issue are now on board, literally every major player, whether it be business or labor,” he said.

Shortly after their meeting, the president issued a statement urging the Senate to move quickly on the legislation.

“This bill is clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they wanted, including me,” he said. “But it is largely consistent with the principles that I have repeatedly laid out for comprehensive reform.“

The senators had planned to introduce the bill during a press conference on Tuesday, but delayed it “out of respect” for the people of Boston, Schumer said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr102013

Immigration Bill Delayed, Likely Not Ready Until Next Week

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday’s expected Senate briefing on the Gang of Eight immigration bill was postponed.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was scheduled to explain the nearly finished proposal, but senators coming out of the closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill told reporters that the gun issue took up the entire agenda.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a powerful critic of immigration reform, said the Gang of Eight was not ready.

Sessions said, “I guess he wasn’t ready. They didn’t seem to be interested in doing that,” he told reporters. “I didn’t get the impression there was any interest to get that done today [among the Gang of Eight]. The impression I got was that they hoped to be able to do it next week.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican of Arizona and one of the Gang of Eight, told reporters the bill could be ready by Friday or slip into next week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar302013

Business and Labor Leaders Agree on Immigration Sticking Point

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Business and labor leaders agreed on Saturday to a deal on the guest worker program, signalling a key development in the debate over immigration reform.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., briefed Dennis McDonough, White House chief of staff, on the agreement on Saturday. According to the New York Times, the agreement was reached on a Friday evening conference call between Schumer, Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard L. Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's main federation of labor unions.

Pay for guest workers was reportedly one of the final sticking points in a deal, and a solution was worked out on the conference call that ensures guest workers will receive the higher of the prevailing industry wage as determined by the labor department and the actual employer wage, according to the New York Times.

The deal will start by allowing 20,000 new visas each year and could eventually grow to as many as 200,000 per year. Guest workers would also be allowed to pursue a path to citizenship. Before the agreement is made official, the eight senators who had been negotiating the deal -- often referred to as the Gang of Eight -- must sign off before the end of the weekend, says the New York Times.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio







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