Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following remarks on the floor of the U.S. Senate announcing his readiness to move forward to conference on comprehensive immigration reform using a House tax bill in order to resolve threats by House Republicans to block it. A letter, signed by Senators Specter, Graham, and McCain, assuring that they will not vote for any immigration conference committee report that contains unrelated tax provisions is attached.
The text of Senator Reid’s remarks, as prepared, is below.
Mr. President, I have spoken repeatedly about the need to move forward on the immigration bill. The Senate spent two weeks debating this important issue and passed a bipartisan comprehensive bill that would address this urgent national security issue.
In contrast, the House passed a bill last year that would make felons out of 12 million undocumented immigrants and the humanitarian workers who help them, including people who run soup kitchens, domestic violence counselors, and even members of the clergy.
A little over three weeks ago, I proposed a unanimous consent agreement that would allow us to move toward a House-Senate negotiation on the immigration bill. I asked consent that we take up the House immigration bill, substitute the text of the Senate bill, and then appoint conferees.
The Majority Whip objected. Due to a threat by House Republicans to “blue slip” the bill, Senator McConnell instead asked consent that we take up and appoint conferees to H.R. 4096, a House-passed tax bill, in order to address the House’s constitutional concerns.
I had no choice but to object, because I was concerned that House leaders would use this tax bill as an opportunity for mischief and would insert the estate tax repeal or other extraneous tax provisions.
Since then, I have asked the Majority Leader for some assurances that this procedural maneuver would be used solely to get around the blue slip problem and that the conference report would not be used as a vehicle for tax provisions that have nothing to do with the immigration bill. The Majority Leader has provided such assurances to me orally.
In addition, I am pleased that Senators Specter, Graham and McCain have given me written assurances that they will not sign a conference report that contains tax provisions unrelated to the immigration bill.
They have assured me that they “will not allow the use of a tax bill as a vehicle for comprehensive immigration reform to be abused in conference.”
Based on the oral assurance from the Majority Leader and the written assurance from these other three Republican senators, Democrats stand ready to appoint Senate conferees and to move forward on this bill.
We are now willing to move forward under the terms previously suggested by the Majority Whip. We would consent to use the House-passed tax bill as a vehicle for this immigration conference, based on these new assurances.