Morning Action: The Next Battle is Immigration and Amnesty

AMNESTY.  Having just passed a $1 trillion food stamp and farm bill, the House is now apparently weighing its options on immigration (sub. req’d):

Though it’s expected to be short on specifics, the Republican leadership document on immigration will mark the most significant step the House majority has taken so far on the issue. Obama acknowledged the effort in the State of the Union on Tuesday, saying he knows members of both parties in the chamber want to act.

House committees last year approved a set of narrow immigration bills dealing with border security (HR 1417), state and local immigration enforcement (HR 2278), employment verification (HR 1772), agricultural guest workers (HR 1773) and high-tech worker visas (HR 2131). Most Republicans are dead set against the comprehensive approach taken by the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill (S 744) and concerned about the way the issue, in any form, could expose messy intraparty rifts in an election year.

House Speaker John A. Boehner downplayed the importance of the principles before he left for the retreat, suggesting they would serve as a discussion guide, not as a blueprint for a bill. We’re watching if some retreat attendees embrace an economic argument for changing immigration laws, in the belief it could expand the labor force, increase productivity and spur entrepreneurship.

A “piecemeal” immigration strategy would almost certainly lead to amnesty, which is costly and undermines the rule of law.

HEALTH CARE.  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) 13% may allow votes on bills designed to improve the Obamacare roll out:

Reid may allow the Senate to vote on selected proposals to correct the troubled rollout of the health care overhaul (PL 111-148PL 111-152) — a move that could help vulnerable Democrats in his caucus register their concern about the controversial law.

Senate Democrats have resisted such steps for fear they could lead to an unraveling of Obama’s legislative legacy. But Reid told CNN on Tuesday there are “five or six really substantive proposals” that he would consider bringing to the floor one at a time.

We’re anticipating one likely bill would be New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen’s bid (S 1693) to extend the law’s open enrollment period for at least two months, to May 31, which has attracted five cosponsors. Shaheen and four of the cosponsors — Mark Udall of Colorado, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana — are up for re-election this year. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is the fifth co-sponsor.

Instead of this approach, America needs a patient-centered, market-based approach to health care reform.

FLOOD INSURANCE.  The Senate is nearing a vote on final passage of a flood insurance bill that would delay necessary reforms (sub. req’d):

Supporters of a measure that would delay federal flood insurance premium hikes are hoping to block efforts to phase-in the rate increases, after quickly agreeing to several other changes to the bill Wednesday.

While senators on Wednesday adopted proposals related to community-based flood insurance policies, risk mitigation guidelines and fees for changing rate maps, the chamber remains split on a proposal that would phase-in National Flood Insurance Program premium increases called for in a 2012 law (PL 112-141). The amendment by Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., is expected to receive a vote Thursday, before a vote on the bill’s final passage.

The law calls for the new rates — intended to reflect current flood risk on properties and increase the program’s financial stability — to be phased in over five years. Toomey’s amendment would raise the existing premium 25 percent each year until it meets the increased rate. The slower phase-in would be offset by an annual surcharge on flood insurance policies.

We are key voting against this bill, because it delays reforms that would phase out taxpayer-funded subsidies for flood insurance premiums.

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