Update 4/28/05: Proving that Congress can move quickly when it needs to, CQ.com is reporting (sub. req.) that conferees on the supplemental appropriations bill are close to a deal. Earlier in the week Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was quoted as saying that immigration provisions in the supplemental were likely to be included in the final bill, meaning the democrats weren’t going to fall on their sword to remove the Real ID Act from the bill.
Orginial Post 4/21/05: Today the Senate passed the supplemental appropriations bill to fund military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and tsunami relief. As we have been reporting, the Senate stripped the Real ID Act — which the House included in the supplemental funding bill in February — early in its process. The bill now moves to conference between the House and Senate where debate on whether to include all, some, or an amended version of the Real ID Act is assured.
The real issue here is a tactical one. In dropping the Real ID Act, a faction of the Senate argued that it preferred a “clean” supplemental to support our troops. Twelve Senators even sent a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) arguing that this bill was too important to load up with troublesome and complex immigration measures (which the Real ID Act certainly is). However, in Washington “clean” is in the eye of the beholder. During floor consideration, the Senate loaded its version of the bill with lots of its own riders, including a provision to increase the number of agricultural workers allowed into the U.S. – clearly an immigration issue.
Now that the supplemental has immigration riders (not to mention the various other spending riders that Senator McCain railed against) coming from both sides of Congress, a quid pro quo negotiation is likely. If the Senate really wants their stuff included in this must-pass measure, it will have to give something to the House – meaning the Real ID Act is still very much in play.
There is a slight chance that a yet to be appointed House-Senate conference committee could reach a final agreement before the Senate recesses at the end of next week, but we doubt it. Look for this high-priority issue to be on the President’s desk shortly before Memorial Day.
USACM sent Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has been working against the Real ID Act, a letter expressing our concerns about the bill.