Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tax Provision May Derail Immigration Reform

The Hill reports this morning that conservative Republicans in the House have plans to derail the Senate immigration compromise based on a procedural matter. The bill includes tax policy, which according to the Constitution, has to originate in the House, and some Republicans have lined up to issue a "blue slip" stop to the legislation on that basis.

House conservatives are ready to stop the Senate immigration bill in its tracks with a procedural weapon should the contentious measure win passage in the upper chamber. The procedural weapon House conservatives may hold is a constitutional rule that revenue-related bills must originate in the House. The current Senate immigration measure requires that illegal immigrants pay back taxes before becoming citizens. This requirement opens the door to a House protest, dubbed a “blue slip”. The "blue slip" comes from the color of its paper.

House Republicans used the same back-taxes mandate for a blue-slip threat that derailed last year’s immigration conference. The new Senate bill still must survive two more weeks of voter scrutiny and contentious amendments, but several conservatives already are lying in wait for the Senate to “make the same mistake twice,” as one House GOP aide put it.

“If we get an opportunity to do it, believe me, we’ll do it,” the aide said. “I think it’s going to be a matter of who will get there first. A number of people in the House are dying to be fingered as the person who killed [the Senate bill].”

During a blogger conference call with Senator John McCain, one of the bill's architects, the conservative blogger, Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters, mentioned a Boston Globe story that reported the removal of a requirement to pay back taxes before entering either the Z-visa or Y-visa program. The White House reportedly requested that section be removed, and the blogger asked the Senator why illegal immigrants would get a pass on paying back taxes when American citizens don't get that privilege.

Senator McCain hadn't heard about the removal of the requirement. “I’d not heard that proposal on the part of the president,” McCain said, according to a transcript of the call. “I would resist that.” In fact, Senator McCain went back and reinstated the provision after the blogger conference call.

Inadvertently, Senator McCain may have provided an "out" for House Republicans to at least delay the bill's consideration. While any Representative can blue-slip a revenue-producing bill from the Senate, it takes a majority to enforce it. Given the heat from both sides of this debate, that may not be difficult to arrange, and it would require the Senate negotiators to start from Square One.

“We would certainly have the right [to a blue slip] and could exercise it,” another House GOP aide said.

Via Captain's Quarters.

Blog Archive