Senator Bob Corker had an interesting explanation when I asked him why it was necessary to include provisions benefiting specific industries in his amendment to the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill: They had to include those carve-outs because the bill’s opponents are blocking votes on amendments.
“The very people who are on the floor objecting the loudest to the fact that we aren’t hearing amendments are the very people, in many cases, who are keeping amendments from being heard. In knowing that, what we did do, is that we did incorporate some other issues that needed to be dealt with,” Corker told a small group of reporters. (Corker had just come from debating with Senator Jeff Sessions on the floor and referred to him specifically in later remarks about opponents.)
One of these provisions, nicknamed the “Crabhusker Kickback” or “Alaska Purchase,” specifies that “seafood processing positions in Alaska” are to be considered “shortage occupations,” making it easier to import cheap, low-skilled workers to take jobs in that industry. The Hill reported that the provision prompted the support of both Alaska senators — Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Lisa Murkowski — for the underlying bill.
According to Corker, he is still holding out hope for “many, many amendments,” and he said tonight’s cloture vote on his amendment isn’t even close to the end of the debate.
“The cloture vote that we’re having tonight is only on this amendment. It’s not a cloture vote on the bill. So anybody who’s trying to mislead others . . . they’re doing that obviously to try to generate opposition. It’s just not true. There still has to be a cloture vote down the road on the bill itself. So no rights are being given up whatsoever tonight,” he said.
When I asked Senate aides and conservative activists who oppose the bill about Corker’s remarks, they responded with indignation that Corker was strongly misrepresenting the chain of events.
A former leadership aide said that by “filling the tree,” Reid prevented any amendment votes other than on the Corker-Hoeven substitute amendment, which, as noted above, includes a grab-bag of parochial, earmark-like provisions scattered throughout.
Reid has also already filed cloture on both the Corker-Hoeven amendment and the underlying bill, meaning that the rest of the debate is limited in time. Each cloture motion allows a maximum of 30 hours before a vote to shut off debate. It’s likely that not even that much time will be used; final passage could come on Thursday. Reid’s motion also prevents the possibility of a so-called “talking filibuster,” my source said, since such an effort would ultimately be interrupted by the cloture vote. (Leading opponents of the bill were reportedly leaning against that approach anyway.)
Opponents are considering more inventive ways to force votes on the earmark-like carveouts in the bill. One option is to call a “point of order” on a specific provision, lose the point-of-order ruling, and then appeal the ruling of the chair, prompting a vote on the point of order. It’s convoluted, but at this point it may be opponents’ only option.