Senate Passes Border Bill, Honors Stevens
Updated: 11:08 a.m.
The Senate cleared a $600 million border security bill Thursday, marking the second time in a week that the chamber has agreed to the legislation, and paid tribute to former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who died in a plane crash this week.
With Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) presiding over the unusual mid-recess session, the nearly empty chamber observed a brief moment of silence in honor of Stevens.
Before agreeing to the border bill, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) briefly paid tribute to Stevens, praising “Ted’s dedication to his nation” during a six-decade career in public service.
Schumer, who was the original sponsor of the border bill, then used the brief session to tout the bill’s effect on border security, calling it a “smart, tough, effective $600 million bill.”
The legislation would boost border patrol and immigration agent levels along the southern border and increase the number of unmanned aerial drones patrolling the area. It is paid for by raising visa fees on foreign companies that hire foreign workers to work in the U.S.
With no Republicans in attendance, Schumer spent several minutes detailing the legislation’s provisions — most of which have been sought by the Obama administration — and critiqued previous GOP demands that the bill be paid for with unused stimulus funds.
Schumer called those demands “the worst kind of robbing Peter to pay Paul” and said “border security does not need to come at the expense of creating millions of jobs.”
Schumer also argued that by passing the bill the Senate is making progress toward moving a broader comprehensive bill. Thursday’s bill will “clear the path for restarting bipartisan negotiations,” he said.
The border bill, which was agreed to by unanimous consent, is identical to Schumer’s bill that was also passed by unanimous consent late last week.
However, the House on Tuesday forced the Senate to reconvene after leaders, citing the Constitution’s requirement that spending measures originate in the House, passed an identical bill and sent it back to the Senate for passage.
President Barack Obama has said he will sign the bill.
Schumer — who as the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 2008 played a critical role in defeating Stevens — also introduced a resolution to honor Stevens’ career, which was passed by unanimous consent.
Stevens left the Senate under an ethical cloud after being found guilty in a corruption trial prior to his election. The conviction was later overturned due to prosecutorial misconduct.