CBO Report May Help Leaders Block Petition

Posted April 7, 2008 at 5:47pm

Democratic House leaders expect a report displaying a hefty price tag for a border and immigration enforcement bill may persuade fiscally conservative Democrats who have endorsed the legislation to repel Republican efforts to force a vote.

According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate released Friday, the enforcement-only immigration measure, authored by freshman Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), would cost the federal government approximately $33 billion through 2018, including up to $138 million in unfunded mandates as well as $17 billion in anticipated tax losses during that period.

“This is a triple blow to the Republicans’ political discharge petition strategy,” said a Democratic leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

GOP leaders strongly have endorsed Virginia Republican Rep. Thelma Drake’s discharge petition attempting to bring the measure directly to the House floor over the objections of Democrats. According to the most recent update available from the Clerk of the House, the petition had garnered 185 signatures as of April 1, including 10 Democratic lawmakers.

Republicans have targeted members of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition, more than 20 of whom signed on as co- sponsors of Shuler’s bill, in their effort to gain 218 signatures on the petition.

Michael Steel, spokesman for Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), dismissed Democratic arguments against the measure.

“This is a smoke screen to avoid the fact that there is a bipartisan consensus in the House in support of a real border security bill without amnesty,” Steel said. “Surely, somewhere in the federal budget, which totals over $3 trillion, the Democrats can find enough money to adequately secure the border.”

“Let’s also recall that the Democratic Members that are considering signing the discharge petition on the [Secure America with Verification and Enforcement] Act already agreed to co-sponsor it,” he added. “Why is this suddenly an issue? Could it be because the House Democratic leadership is desperate to divert attention from the split in their caucus? The only thing that stands between the American people and improved border security is the Democratic leadership.”

House Democrats have agreed to host a series of hearings on the measure, however, with a full schedule involving as many as eight committees — Judiciary, Homeland Security, Ways and Means, Education and Labor, Oversight and Government Reform, Armed Services, Agriculture and Natural Resources — expected to be finalized later this week.

“The bottom line is Republicans want a political football. Democrats are moving forward and looking at policy solutions,” said the Democratic leadership aide.

A Blue Dog spokeswoman declined to comment, noting that the coalition does not have an official position on the legislation.