(Senate - June 27, 2013)

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[Pages S5315-S5317]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the

[[Page S5316]]

Senate will resume consideration of S. 744, which the clerk will 
  The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

       A bill (S. 744) to provide for comprehensive immigration 
     reform, and for other purposes.


       Boxer/Landrieu amendment No. 1240, to require training for 
     National Guard and Coast Guard officers and agents in 
     training programs on border protection, immigration law 
     enforcement, and how to address vulnerable populations, such 
     as children and victims of crime.
       Cruz amendment No. 1320, to replace title I of the bill 
     with specific border security requirements, which shall be 
     met before the Secretary of Homeland Security may process 
     applications for registered immigrant status or blue card 
     status and to avoid Department of Homeland Security budget 
       Leahy (for Reed) amendment No. 1224, to clarify the 
     physical present requirements for merit-based immigrant visa 
       Reid amendment No. 1552 (to the language proposed to be 
     stricken by the reported committee substitute amendment to 
     the bill), to change the enactment date.
       Reid amendment No. 1553 (to amendment No. 1552), of a 
     perfecting nature.

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the time 
until 11:30 a.m. will be equally divided and controlled between the two 
managers or their designees, with Senators permitted to speak for up to 
10 minutes each.

                   Recognition of the Minority Leader

  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Republican leader is 
  Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, at the outset of the debate we have 
been engaged in, I expressed my hope that we could do something about 
our Nation's broken immigration system. Millions of men and women are 
living among us without any documentation or certainty about what the 
future will bring for themselves or their families. Many of those who 
come here legally end up staying here illegally. We have no way of 
knowing who or where they are. And current law simply does not take 
into account the urgent needs of a modern rapidly changing economy.
  Beyond all of this, it has long been a deep conviction of mine that 
from our earliest days as a people immigration has been a powerful 
force of renewal and national strength. Most of the people who have 
come here over the centuries have come as dreamers and risk-takers, 
looking for a chance for a better life for themselves and for their 
  I can think of no better example of this than my wife, who came here 
at age 8 in the cargo hull of a ship because her parents did not have 
the money for a plane ticket. When she entered the third grade at a 
public school in New York, she did not speak a word of English. Yet, in 
just a few short decades, she would be sworn in as a member of the 
President's Cabinet--an honor and an opportunity she could hardly have 
guessed at when she was just a little girl. This is the kind of story 
that has made this Nation what it is. Legal immigration makes that 
  So, yes, I had wanted very much to be able to support a reform to our 
Nation's immigration laws. I knew it would be tough, and the politics 
are not particularly easy either. But the fact is that our constituents 
did not send us here to name post offices and pass Mother's Day 
resolutions; they sent us here to tackle the hard stuff too.
  Broad bipartisan majorities agree that our immigration system needs 
updating. In my view we had an obligation to our constituents at least 
to try to do it, to try to do it together and in the process show the 
world we can still solve national problems around here and reaffirm the 
vital role legal immigration has played in our history. So it is with a 
great deal of regret--for me, at least--that the final bill did not 
turn out to be something I can support. The reason is fairly simple. As 
I see it, this bill does not meet the threshold test for success that I 
outlined at the start of this debate. It just does not say--to me, at 
least--that we have learned the lessons of 1986 and that we will not 
find ourselves right back in the same situation we found ourselves in 
after that reform.
  If you cannot be reasonably certain the border is secure as a 
condition of legalization, there is no way to be sure millions more 
will not follow the illegal immigrants who are already here. As others 
have rightly pointed out, you also cannot be sure that further 
Congresses will not just reverse whatever assurances we make today that 
border security will occur in the future. In other words, in the 
absence of a very firm results-based border security trigger, there is 
no way I can look at my constituents, look them in the eye and tell 
them that today's assurances will not become tomorrow's 
  Since the bill before us does not include such a trigger, I will not 
be able to support it. It does not give any pleasure to say this or to 
vote against this bill. These are big problems. They need solving. I am 
deeply grateful to all the Members of my conference and their staffs 
who have devoted so much of their time and worked so hard over a period 
of many months to solve these problems. I am grateful to all of them.
  While I will not be voting for this bill, I think it has to be said 
that there are real improvements in the bill. Current immigration 
policy, which prioritizes family-based immigration, has not changed in 
decades. This bill would take an important step toward the kind of 
skills-based immigration a growing economy requires. Through new and 
reformed visa programs, for instance, this bill would provide many of 
our most dynamic businesses with the opportunity to legally hire the 
workers they need to remain competitive and to expand. Some industries, 
such as construction, could and should have fared better, but on 
balance I think the improvements to legal immigration contained in the 
bill are very much a step in the right direction.
  We have learned an important lesson in this debate. One thing I am 
fairly certain about is that we will never resolve the immigration 
problem on a bipartisan basis either now or in the future until we can 
prove--prove--that the border is secure as a condition for 
legalization. This, to me, continues to be the biggest hurdle to 
reform. Frankly, I cannot understand why there is such resistance to 
it--almost entirely, of course, on the other side. It seems pretty 
obvious to me, and I suspect to most Americans, that the first part of 
immigration reform should be proof that the border is secure. It is 
simply common sense.
  Hopefully, Democrats now realize that this is the one necessary 
ingredient for success and they will be a little more willing to accept 
it as a condition for legalization because until they do, I for one 
cannot be confident that we have solved the problem, and I know a lot 
of others will not be confident either.
  So this bill may pass the Senate today but not with my vote. In its 
current form, it will not become law. But the good news is this: The 
path to success, the path to actually making a law is fairly clear at 
this point. Success on immigration reform runs through the border. Let 
me say that again. Success on immigration reform runs through the 
border. Looking ahead, I think it is safe to say that is where our 
focus should lie.

                              Senate Rules

  Mr. President, briefly on another matter, another day has passed and 
the majority leader has still not confirmed that he intends to keep his 
word, which was given back in January of this year, with regard to the 
rules of the Senate. To refresh the memory of my colleagues, we had a 
big discussion at the end of the year about the rules and procedures in 
the Senate on a bipartisan basis.
  Out of those bipartisan discussions came two rules changes and two 
standing orders that were passed consistent with the current rules of 
the Senate. In the wake of that bipartisan agreement, the majority 
leader gave his word to the Senate that the issue of the rules under 
which we would operate this year was settled.
  Regretfully, he continues to suggest to outside groups, and 
occasionally on the floor as well, that maybe he didn't mean that, and 
that if our behavior--meaning the minority's behavior--doesn't meet his 
standards, he is still open to breaking the rules of the Senate to 
change the rules of the Senate.
  We all know how this would occur if it did occur. The Parliamentarian 
would advise the occupant of the chair the way to change the rules of 
the Senate is with 67 votes. The majority leader, under that scenario, 
would move to overrule the Chair and with 51 votes establish a new 
precedent that would turn the Senate into the House.

[[Page S5317]]

  It has been suggested maybe that would only apply to nominations, but 
as Senator Alexander and I pointed out last week, of course, that would 
not be the case. The next time the other side had a majority--my side--
I would have a hard time arguing to my Members we should confine a 51-
vote majority to simply nominations, and I would be under intense 
pressure to say: Why not legislation. Senator Alexander and I laid out 
what some of the top priorities would be that he would recommend to 
me--and many of them I agree with--for an agenda I would be setting 
instead of the majority leader. These are things such as the national 
right-to-work, repealing ObamaCare, establishing Yucca Mountain, the 
national nuclear repository. One gets the drift. These are many things 
the current majority would find abhorrent.
  I hope this crisis will be averted. All it requires from my friend 
the majority leader is simply an acknowledgment that he intends to keep 
his word.
  I yield the floor.
  The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Rhode Island.