NPR Story
12:30 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Hundreds Of Amendments Could Challenge Immigration Bill

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 6:56 pm

Tuesday evening was the deadline for Senate Judiciary Committee to file amendments to the so-called Gang of Eight's bipartisan immigration reform bill.

The committee's first meeting to consider the amendments is Thursday morning, and there will be plenty to think about: committee members have filed 300 amendments to the 844-page bill.

Such amendments could destabilize the delicate compromise reached by the four Republican Senators and four Democratic Senators who crafted the bill, as well as the agreement reached by the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce behind the scenes.

The Republican amendments outnumber the Democrats' almost 2 to 1, with 194 filed by the right side of the aisle, compared to 106 from the left side.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) alone filed 77 amendments.

Many on the Republican side deal with beefing up the border security provisions of the bill and restricting the number of immigrants who can enter the country or qualify for benefits.

As The Associated Press reports, a major point to watch is how the four Gang of Eight senators who are in the committee will react to the amendments.

The Judiciary Committee includes four of the eight senators who authored the bill, and they plan to try to vote together in the committee to stave off poison pill amendments from either side that could upend their deal.

However, as of Tuesday afternoon these lawmakers -- Democrats Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Republicans Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona -- had not decided how to proceed on all issues.

Two of the most notable amendments from the Democratic side come from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). They would allow gay and lesbian U.S. citizens to sponsor their partners for residency the way straight couples can. One amendment would allow U.S. citizens to petition for "permanent partners" and not just spouses to gain U.S. residency. Another calls for all legal marriages to be recognized by federal immigration law, which would include same-sex marriages.

Some Republicans have warned that such an amendment would kill immigration reform.

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