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Budget Votes Expected to Highlight Immigration Debate

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Sessions, left, may offer amendments on immigration during the Senate’s budget vote-a-rama.

Advocates of an immigration overhaul warned both parties Friday that votes during the budget vote-a-rama in favor of what they consider to be anti-immigration amendments will be remembered come Election Day.

“We’re going to get the word out” about who votes for these amendments, said Leticia Miranda, a senior policy adviser at the National Council of La Raza. “I just think it damages the brand for any party that is reaching out to our community.”

Miranda made clear that advocates aren’t just putting Republicans on notice.

“Right now there are also a lot of moderate Democrats who might be voting for these amendments,” Miranda said. “None of these amendments can pass without bipartisan support. So if any of them pass that damages the brand for both parties as far as how they are viewed by Hispanic voters.”

While the amendments would not have the force of law, as the budget is just a spending blueprint, there is a concern that approval of such amendments would hurt ongoing efforts to draft and pass comprehensive changes to immigration policy.

“Members of Congress have already begun a serious debate about how to fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a release. “A number of anti-immigrant amendments that could potentially be voted on in the Senate today pose a serious threat to these bipartisan efforts. These amendments taint the debate over commonsense immigration reform. ”

The possibility of the Senate taking up these amendments comes as the Republican National Committee hopes to show a more welcoming face to immigrants and their children, voters who helped re-elect President Barack Obama after being turned off by what some argued was intolerant rhetoric during the GOP presidential primary. For example, the RNC has urged Republicans to embrace and champion an immigration overhaul.

There are six amendments that advocates find menacing that could be offered by Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

Sessions has filed at least three immigration amendments — including one that would prevent illegal immigrants, or illegal immigrants granted legal status, from qualifying for refundable tax credits, including tax credits designed to help low income families — although it’s not clear whether he will seek votes on them.

The Alabama Republican, who has been critical of behind-closed-doors negotiations on the issue, believes the Senate’s focus should be on creating jobs, which will help everyone.

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