In Roll Call, journalist Alexander Bolton writes about the fears on Capitol Hill that including LGBT Americans in the proposed immigration reform will kill the legislation. Republicans are vowing to kill it in the House of Representatives if an amendment by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is included which would add LGBT Americans to the bill.
Of course, House Republicans have already indicated that they are likely to kill immigration reform if it includes a path to citizenship! Guess they are just looking for a good scapegoat!
A proposal to expand gay rights is threatening to splinter a fragile, bipartisan agreement on immigration reform and kill a pillar of President Obama’s second-term agenda.
The Senate Gang of Eight, which crafted the immigration legislation, pledged to fight off “poison pill” amendments that would derail the bill. But one controversial proposal has already divided the group.
An amendment sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) would allow U.S. citizens in long-term same-sex relationships to sponsor foreign partners for green cards.
It is potentially the most troublesome amendment of the more than 300 proposed changes that have been filed by members of the Judiciary panel.
Republican members of the Gang of Eight have stated bluntly to their Democratic partners that this will sink the bill if adopted during the committee’s deliberations.
The markup begins on Thursday, which is the one-year anniversary of Obama’s decision to embrace same-sex marriage.
“If that’s in the bill, that will kill the bill,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a member of the gang. “This bill has got to get broad support to have a chance in the House, and with that provision it will not have broad support. A lot of the coalitions that are behind it will go away, and so I think that’s pretty much understood.”
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a Democratic member of the group, declared Tuesday he is a strong supporter of the amendment but stopped short of saying how he would vote if it comes up in committee. “I support it and hope we can find a way to resolve it. It’s a fair thing to do,” Durbin said.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a Reid lieutenant and another member of group, is a co-sponsor of legislation that served as the template for the amendment, the Uniting American Families Act.
Durbin and Schumer are members of the Judiciary Committee and either one could strike down Leahy’s amendment by voting with Republicans against it.
Democrats control 10 seats on the panel to the Republicans’ eight. The other Democratic members of the panel are expected to back the Leahy measure.
Leahy also filed an amendment exempting the immigration status of same-sex couples from restrictions established by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) if a state or another country recognizes their unions.
Durbin and Schumer are leading contenders to someday replace Sen. Harry Reid (Nev.) as Democratic leader. They have come under pressure from prominent Democratic fundraisers and gay-rights advocates to support the Leahy legislation.
“It will be interesting how Durbin and Schumer vote because they have huge [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] constituencies and citizens in their states, and I can’t imagine them not supporting the Leahy amendment,” said David Mixner, a prominent Democratic fundraiser and political strategist. “Since when do we separate a whole group of American citizens and say, ‘These rights apply to everyone, but not LGBT citizens.’”
Mixner said it would be a “moral outrage” if the Senate passed immigration legislation that discriminated against same-sex couples.
Leahy is one of the biggest allies of gay-rights advocates, who do not want him to succumb to colleagues who would prefer the amendment not come up for a vote.