An Otherwise Sparse Schedule of Immigration and Refugee Legislative Activity Could be Punctuated by the Contentious House Floor Consideration of the FY '13 Homeland Security Appropriations Act
During the Week Ahead
By Micheal E. Hill
Monday, June 4, 2012 -- 10:00 am EDT
--Original Version Posted on Friday, June 1, 2012, at 11:55 pm EDT--
The Senate returns to Washington on Monday, June 4, from its Memorial Day recess, joining the House of Representatives, which next reconvenes in legislative session a day later. This means that when the two bodies convene on Tuesday, June 5, they will be in session at the same time for the first time in more than two weeks.
The number of days during which the two bodies will be in session simultaneously will be brief, however; the House is scheduled to begin yet another week-long recess upon the close of business on Friday, June 8, while the Senate plans to continue in session throughout the remainder of the month of June, not leaving town again until both bodies break on June 30 for a week-long July 4 recess.
Impact of On-Again Off-Again, Nonsynchronous House and Senate Schedules
The frequent on-again off-again nature of this year's House schedule, combined with the unwillingness of the House and Senate to schedule simultaneous recesses during the 112th Congress, have made it more difficult to coordinate legislative action between the two bodies and made for a particularly challenging time for advocates seeking to influence the course of legislation, including advocates working on immigration- and refugee-related legislation. One of the casualties of the asynchronous House and Senate schedules has been the Violence Against Women Act. The House and Senate have passed differing versions of the bill, including vastly different immigration provisions. But at the time of this writing, the two bodies are in the midst of a period during which they will only be in simultaneous session for three-to-four days out of a four week-long period. That (combined, of course, with the political differences between the two versions of the bills has made it exceedingly difficult for the two chambers' negotiators to agree on how to resolve the differences between the two bills.
The on-again off-again House schedule also has made it more difficult for the House to do its business. The Fiscal Year 2012 Homeland Security Appropriations Act is a case in point. Despite the fact that the House Committee on Appropriations completed action on that measure on May 16, 2012. The full House of Representatives will not take it up until June 7, at the earliest. However, it is far more likely that the House will not take up the measure until the week of June 18, or later.
The on-again off-again nature of this year's House schedule has not prevented House committees from producing legislation. Indeed, the three authorizing committees that have primary jurisdiction over immigration- and refugee-related legislation have produced a significant number of bills. However, the nature of this year's House floor schedule has left little time for the full House to take up the legislation that the committees have produced. And so, with so little floor time available, there is a large backlog of immigration-related legislation that have been approved by various House committees but that have not made it to the House floor.
Despite a large backlog of immigration- and refugee-related legislation that is ready for floor consideration in both the house and the Senate, the schedule of confirmed immigration or refugee legislative action during the week-to-come is sparse.
This Week's Confirmed Legislative Activity
At the time of this writing, only one hearing that could tangentially touch on immigration matters is scheduled for the week-to-come in either the House or the Senate. No markups of legislation containing significant immigration- or refugee-related provisions were on the week-to-come's schedule in the House or Senate at the time of this writing. However, while there was no certainty, at the time of this writing, two measures containing significant immigration-related provisions and that could become the subject of intense and contentious immigration debates could be taken up on the House floor or the Senate floor during the week-to-come.
The first of the measures that could see floor action during the week of June 4 is the Fiscal Year 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which the full House of Representatives could take up as soon as Wednesday. Should the House take up the measure, the Chamber will almost certainly become embroiled in a contentious debate as Members offer amendments on such difficult subjects as prosecutorial discretion, state and local enforcement of federal immigration law, and detention policy.
The second measure that could see floor action during the week of June 4 is the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which the full Senate could take up at anytime. That measure, too, is likely to become the target for controversial immigration-related amendments should the full Senate take it up.
The lone hearing scheduled for the week-to-come at which the subject of immigration is likely to be discussed is a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the operations of the Department of Justice, featuring Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
The following lists the highlights of coming week's possible immigration- or refugee-related legislative-related action:
House Could Take up the Fiscal Year 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Act. The full House of Representatives could take up H.R. 5855, the House version of the Fiscal year 2013 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, during the week of June 4, 2012. The House Committee on Appropriations approved the measure on Wednesday, May 16, 2012, ordering that it be reported to the full House of Representatives. Each year, the Homeland Security Appropriations Act funds the federal government's border security, interior immigration enforcement, and immigration services adjudication functions. The House Appropriations Committee-reported measure would increase funding for alternatives to detention, increase funding for detention beds, set a higher floor for the number of detention beds that ICE must maintain each day, set a floor for spending on worksite immigration enforcement, and approve the use of up to $9.2 MILLION for immigrant integration grants from the Examinations Fee account. Additionally, the measure would extend for one year the authorization for the E-Verify System. The measure is expected to become the target of immigration-related amendments should it be brought before the full House.
- Full Senate Could Take Up FY '13 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill. While there was no evidence at the time of this writing that it will occur, the full Senate could as soon as the week of June 4, 2012, take up S. 2323, the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2013 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved the measure on Thursday, April 19, 2012, ordering that it be reported to the full Senate. Each year, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act funds the federal government's immigration court system, including the Executive Office for Immigration Review. The measure is expected to become the target of immigration-related amendments should it be brought before the full Senate.
- House Judiciary Committee Hearing on Attorney General's Disregard for the Constitution. The House Committee on the Judiciary has scheduled a hearing for the week of June 4, 2012, at which it intends to examine "The Obama Administration's Disregard of the Constitution and Rule of Law", including its failure to enforce immigration law. The hearing apparently will focus on a report that the Committee issued on April 30, 2012, titled, The Obama Administration's Disregard of the Constitution and the Rule of Law. The sole witness at the hearing will be Attorney General Eric Holder.
In addition to "on the Hill" immigration- and refugee-related action that is scheduled for the coming week, a number of significant "off of the Hill" immigration- and refugee-related activities also could occur.
The following lists several highlights of the coming week's "off-of-the-Hill" immigration- and refugee-related legislative-related action:
White House Daily Briefings. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is scheduled to conduct daily press briefings during the coming week, at which he will field questions from the White House press corps, including possible questions on immigration- and refugee-related matters.