Dems have no More Excuses Not to Have a Vote on Immigration

This will the first time since 2010 that Democrats will have control of both Chambers of Congress and the presidency. Historically, the House of Representatives has always been the problem to tackle Immigration.

by Alex Gonzalez

As candidate, Joe Biden made a commitment that in the first 100 days as President, he would “send an immigration bill to the United States Senate with a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people in America. Joe Biden also said Tuesday that he planned to use his first 100 days in office to take action on an immigration bill to roll back President Trump’s executive orders. Biden even promised not to make the same mistakes Obama did – deporting innocent immigrant and failure to pass comprehensive  Immigration Reform when the had Super Majority in Congress.

Ever since Democrats lost the House of Representatives in the 2010 Mid-term election, Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer have been screaming for a vote on an Immigration Bill to revamp our “Broken Immigration system.” When the Bipartisan Immigration Bill S.774 passed in the U.S. Senate, Nancy Pelosi and every single Democrats in the House accused former Speakers of the House John Boehner and all Republicans in the House of “obstructionists” for now allowing a vote an that Immigration Bill. Moreover, since 2013, when the U.S. Senate passed S.774, Democrats have accused Republicans of “obstructing” an Immigration Bill to pander to hardliners and passing only partisan “Enforcement only” bills.

But the 2020 election, and thanks to twin wins of U.S. Senate races Georgia, the American people have given Democrats the chance to pass the kind of Immigration Bill they’ve been screaming about since 2011 when they lost the House, and now they will have opportunity to show Latino voters that they honestly care about them.

Historically, the House of Representatives has always been the problem to tackle Immigration.  On Dec. 16, 2005, the House passed the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437) more commonly known as “the Sensenbrenner Bill.” The passage of H.R. 447 spurred large demonstration across the nation forcing the U.S. Senate to passed  “McCain-Kennedy” comprehensive reform bill.

Under the leadership of Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and President George W. Bush, the Senate passed the “McCain-Kennedy” bipartisan comprehensive Immigration bill with 65 votes. However, because the House, under the leadership of Speaker Dennis Hastert, refused to meet in Conference to iron out the differences between the “the Sensenbrenner Bill” and the “McCain-Kennedy” bill, the Immigration Bill died.

In 2006, when Democrats took control of both Houses of Congress, Nancy Pelosi became House Speaker and Rahm Emmanuel became Pelosi’s top lieutenant. There, too, Emmanuel worked hard to keep the immigration issue off the Democratic agenda because he feared it could put him and his colleagues in a tough spot. And although in 2006, Democrats took control of The House and In the Senate with a simple majority 51-49, the  Senate failed to pass an immigration bill in 2007 since Democrats did not have 60 votes, and Nancy Pelosi and Emmanuel conveniently avoided the issue.

When Democrats won a Super Majority in 2008, there was great expectation that Democrats, under the leadership of Obama, will take Immigration in the first 100-days. But, Rahm Emanuel, who became President Obama’s chief of staff in early 2009, allegedly persuaded Obama to distance himself from an Immigration Bill and asked Pelosi to push Immigration to the “back burners,” despite repeated promises that Obama and Pelosi usually made before Latino audiences, mostly Mexican-Americans across the Southwest.

In 2013, when Democratic-led U.S. Senate “gang of eight” passed  S.774 , but the legislation faced broad opposition in the Republican-led U.S. House. The House, under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, from the start showed no sign of wanting to pass any Immigration legislation arguing that“The House is not going to take up and vote on whatever the Senate passes. We’re going to do our own bill through regular order.”

Conversely, House Democrats showed considerably support among for a Senate-style comprehensive overhaul that includes both border security and a pathway to citizenship, including the Dream Act.

In the 2014 Mid-term election, Democrats lost their majority in the U.S. Senate; and there hasn’t been any serious Immigration bill in Congress since the Senate Immigration bill S.744 in 2013.  However, for the past eight years, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and every single Hispanic member of Congress have accused Republicans of “obstructionism.” For the past eight years, Democrats in the House have pleaded for a bipartisan Immigrating bill from the Senate and from Republicans in the House. For eight years, Democrats in the House have promised millions of Latino voters that they would pass an Immigration Bill if they had the majority in the House. They do now.

Democrats won both U.S. Senate races in Georgia, taking back control of the Senate after five years of Republican leadership. A 50-50 split in the next Congress — with a Vice President Kamala Harris breaking tie votes.

An outcome giving Democrats formal control of the upper chamber but also empowering individual senators greatly and requiring a procedural feat to abolish the 60-vote filibuster rule. That power, enshrined in the Constitution, would allow Sen. Chuck Schumer to act as majority leader, but Schumer would have to broker a deal with Sen. Mitch McConnell about everything from floor procedures to committee seats.

Important duties of the vice president, according to the Congressional Research Service, as presiding officer, include:

  • recognizing the first senator who seeks recognition to speak, with exceptions for priority given to party and committee leaders when managing legislation
  • recognizing members who wish to introduce bills from the floor, or to offer amendments and motions to bills being debated
  • ruling on points of order, with the advice of the parliamentarian, subject to appeal to the full Senate
  • enforcing voting and amending procedures
  • referring bills to committees, on the advice of the parliamentarian

These duties allow the vice president some discretion and influence over how the Senate operates. The Senate can overturn just about any ruling of the vice president, but assuming the vice president and a majority of senators agree on a matter, they will prevail.

Before the 2020 election, there was an argument of whether Democrats would abolish the filibuster rule if they took control of the Senate to prevent Republicans from blocking any of Biden major legislation, and even to possibly expand the Supreme Court and make Puerto Rico and D.C. states.

However, an immigration bill has the potential to also attract Republicans. In 2006, 65 Republican Senators voted for the Compressive Immigration Bill promoted by President George W. Bush, and in 2013, 67 Republicans in the Senate also voted for Bipartisan Immigration crafted by “gang of eight” and supported by President Obama.

Therefore, there are no excuses for Democrats not to bring a comprehensive bill for vote in the floors of the house and the Senate. This will the first time since 2010 that Democrats will have control of both Chambers of Congress and the presidency.


Alex Gonzalez is a political Analyst, Founder of Latino Public Policy Foundation (LPPF), and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote. Comments to or @AlexGonzTXCA

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