The House's stunning rejection of the Farm Bill last week is already prompting calls for a significant shift in the way Congress crafts agricultural policy.
For decades, lawmakers on agriculture committees have included nutritional programs in Farm Bills to garner urban votes. But this time, strident opposition to deep cuts in nutritional spending doomed the legislation.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor called on lawmakers this week to split farm and nutritional programs into separate bills. House Speaker John Boehner says he’s open to the split and will make a final decision after lawmakers return from the Independence Day recess.
But the big development on Capitol Hill this week took place in the Senate, where lawmakers finally approved an overhaul of America’s fractured immigration policy.
Vice President Joe Biden: "The yeas on this bill are 68, the nays are 32, the bill as amended is passed.”
The United States Senate passed one of the most sweeping reforms of immigration in years Thursday.
Senate lawmakers have been working on the legislation for years. Most recently, a bi-partisan group, the “Gang of 8”, led the discussions.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D - Minnesota: “I want to thank all my colleagues, the Gang of Eight, our great Judiciary Committee that debated and marked up this bill into the night, day after day. We should be proud of this bill and I ask my colleagues to support it.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R – Utah: “I stand here today, strongly in support of immigration reform, but this bill is not immigration reform, it is big government dysfunction. And that is why I cannot support it. And urge my colleagues to vote against it.”
Essentially, the bill aims to restrict future illegal immigration, while at the same time offering a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants currently living in the country unlawfully.
The measure calls for 20,000 new Border Patrol Agents, 700 miles of new fencing and calling for the implementation of high-tech devices to be deployed to secure the border with Mexico.
Sen. John McCain, R - Arizona: “Isn’t it in us to bring 11 million people out of the shadows that are now being exploited and have none of the protections of citizenship. How do we address some of these? This legislation does secures the border and I can tell you from being 30 years of being on the border this bill secures the border and anyone who says it doesn’t, does not understand.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R – Alabama: “Rather than working with law enforcement groups.... prosecutors... considering the needs of every day citizens... the sponsors have spent months in negotiations with special interests and lobbyists... to produce a bill that will not work... that's the problem we have before us today...that will create even more lawlessness in the future.”
Sen. Robert Menendez, D – New Jersey: “And I believe a vast majority of Americans want immigration to pass will thank them for doing the right thing....I hope that they will have the political courage to unite the nation and send the bill to the president's desk. A bill that will increase the gross domestic product...reduce the deficit....promote prosperity...and create jobs.”
Sen. Harry Reid, D – Nevada: “Ted Kennedy said it best from Jamestown to the Pilgrims to the Irish to today’s workers, people have come to this country in search of opportunity. They’ve sought nothing more than to work hard and bring a better life to themselves and their families. They came to this country with their hearts and minds full of hope.”
Opponents cited ideology and budget busting as reasons to vote against the measure. But in the end, the bill passed 68-32 with several Republicans crossing over with the majority to ensure passage.
But the measure faces an uncertain future in the House, where conservatives oppose the path to citizenship that’s at the heart of the Senate bill. Other house lawmakers prefer piecemeal legislation over the sweeping reform approach employed by the Senate.