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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently moved to vote to open the immigration debate in the Senate. As quoted from this article by CNN, he chose an unrelated bill to be used for the debate.

McConnell moved on the Senate floor to vote to open debate on the bill Monday evening. The bill McConnell chose was unrelated to immigration after he had said he planned to use a separate bill for the debate.

The Senate subsequently voted 97–1 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to consideration.

From what I understand, the bill is H.R. 2579 — Broader Options for Americans Act, which was passed in the House last year.

Questions:

  • As it is stated that H.R. 2579 is used as a "vehicle for the immigration bill", how does this exactly work? How is this particular bill chosen?

  • It is mentioned that using this bill will allow Senators to "build a bill from scratch on the Senate floor", however, why is an existing bill used to start the immigration debate? Can't a new blank bill be introduced instead?

  • What will happen to the existing text in the bill that was passed by the House? Will the existing text be removed via an amendment or will the immigration-related provisions just simply be added on to the existing text in the bill?

24

This is a common legislative tactic. Although Sen. McConnell didn't explicitly describe his plan, he was likely planning on gutting the bill (removing all of its current content) and eventually replacing it with new, immigration-related content. This isn't an amendment: it's replacing the current text of the bill with all-new text.

This saves time for the legislature: the bill was already in-progress so it is a valid "target" for debate and modification. Proposing a new bill could take a lot of time and there is no guarantee it would ever make it to the Senate floor.

This article describes these "carcass bills" in more detail from the state legislature's perspective, but this appears to be what Sen. McConnell had in mind. If you want to read more about this legislative tactic it is sometimes called "hoghousing". Sometimes the initial bill is only a short phrase or outline, sometimes it is an entire unrelated bill that will be replaced.

9

In addition to the reasons described by indigochild only the house can create bills that change revenue.

By amending a house bill that dealt with taxes the senate can get around that limitation. Specifically the Whitehouse wants money for a wall, and this technique allows the senate to consider including those provisions.

  • 5
    Interestingly enough, this is also how the ACA was made - the Senate gutted and replaced an otherwise unrelated House bill. – Tacroy Feb 13 '18 at 19:14
  • 1
    I'm pretty sure that use of complete replacement to get around the House origin rule is unconstitutional. We note the Senate version didn't create a tax at all, but the Supreme Court changed it retroactively. – Joshua Feb 13 '18 at 21:02
  • @Joshua, did the Supreme Court change it retroactively or did they decide that in reality it was a tax from the beginning? – mikeazo Feb 14 '18 at 15:59
  • @mikeazo: Indeed not. I recall the debates from before and not having insurance was going to be considered breaking the law. – Joshua Feb 14 '18 at 16:47
  • @Joshua, so is lawmaker intention always the way law gets written? – mikeazo Feb 14 '18 at 17:19

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