Posted on November 4, 2005

Senate Votes Against Byrd Amendment

NumbersUSA, Nov. 4

A critical vote was lost Thursday, November 3rd, on the Senate Reconciliation bill (S. 1932). By a vote of 14-85, the Senate rejected an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) that would have struck provisions passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and adopted a $1,500 increase in L-1 visa fees.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s provisions would increase legal immigration levels by more than a third at a time when the public is clamoring for less immigration. They would, in effect, ensure that hundreds of thousands of well-paying American jobs will be filled by cheaper foreign workers.

NumbersUSA will continue to fight these provisions as reconciliation action moves to the House.

The House Judiciary Committee has already passed provisions identical to those sought by Senator Byrd. After the House passes its version, a conference committee will reconcile the differences.

Click here to view roll call vote on the Byrd Amendment

During a debate on Wednesday afternoon to determine whether the Senate should go ahead and increase skilled labor importation by more than 350,000 EACH YEAR, Sen. Byrd’s amendment was met with approval by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and dismissed by Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).

Sen. Byrd’s amendment for the American worker was officially co-sponsored by Sen. Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Durbin (D-IL).

The AFL-CIO even joined the battle in support of the Byrd Amendment which favors American workers over importing foreign workers.

To fully understand what was at stake on the Senate floor, you could do no better than read the eloquent words of Sen. Byrd:

It is painful to watch the Senate work its way through this budget reconciliation process.

Senators are forced to consider, within a mere twenty hours, a massive spending bill that would cut tens of billions of dollars from federal programs that affect millions of Americans. This omnibus reconciliation measure is comprised of eight bills from eight Senate committees. At 817 pages, the Senate, on average, will devote about one-and-a-half minutes to each page of this bill.

Soon, the vote-a-rama will begin, where Senators are forced to vote on amendments with the benefit of only one minute of debate on each side, and, in many cases, without even having seen an amendment before casting their vote. A series of amendments will be considered in this manner, hour after hour, with roll call votes occurring every twenty minutes or so. Unlike budget resolutions, where the legislation being amended is not binding, this bill would become law. These are real policy decisions being made without the benefit of deliberative or thoughtful debate.

It is painful to watch, and it reflects very, very poorly upon the Senate and its members.

It is within this context of limited debate and amendment that a provision has been included in the omnibus bill that would authorize the U.S. Government to issue up to 350,000 additional immigrant visas each year to foreign labor seeking to live and work permanently in the United States.

On pages 810 through 815, separate from the deficit reduction provisions related to L-1 visa fees, are provisions that would raise the annual cap on employment-based visas and exempt the spouses and children of employment-based immigrants from that cap. In addition, those pages include provisions to increase temporary H-1B visas for high-tech workers by 30,000 each year.

These are massive and destabilizing immigration increases, and they are hitching a free ride on this reconciliation bill.

It’s bad enough that so many American jobs are moving overseas, and wages and benefits here at home are being curtailed to compete with third-world labor and unfair trade practices. Now, these provisions would make it more likely that working Americans will find themselves in competition with foreign labor for work in their own country. And it is being done through this reconciliation process, where the immigration increase is clouded by budget provisions, and where debate and amendments are severely limited.

We are told that an immense immigration reform debate will take place early next year. Senators are casting themselves as tough on enforcement and wanting to protect American jobs. Well, that pronouncement stands in stark, stark contrast to this effort, under the cover of procedural protections and the guise of deficit reduction, to increase the number of immigrants authorized to work in the United States by an astonishing 350,000 immigrants per year.

These immigration provisions are not necessary for the Judiciary Committee to comply with its reconciliation instructions, nor are they necessary to achieve the spending cuts embraced by the Congressional budget. The House Judiciary Committee reported legislation to increase the L-1 visa fee for multi-national corporations by $1,500, and that savings more than satisfies the budget’s reconciliation instructions.

I hope that Senators will join me in striking these unrelated immigration increases, and limiting the Judiciary portion of this bill solely to an increase in the L-1 visa fee. The amendment I will send to the desk is identical to the House language, and would raise the L-1 visa fee to $1,500 per application. Again, this amendment simply strikes the unrelated immigration provisions, and would still allow the Senate bill to meet its reconciliation targets.

Mr. President, my amendment has the support of the AFL-CIO, as well as immigration enforcement groups like Numbers USA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Also, I ask that Senators Sessions and Durbin be added as cosponsors to my amendment.

I send the amendment to the desk, and ask Senators for their support.

—Sen. Robert Byrd (November 2, 2005)