by Doug Abrahms,
GANNETT NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — Rep. Heath Shuler’s immigration bill could get a vote on the House floor soon courtesy of Republican lawmakers.
The Republican leadership supports a discharge petition to force a vote on Shuler’s legislation that would strengthen border security and tighten requirements on employers to verify workers’ legal status. The move tries to force Democrats to take up the immigration issue.
“For far too long, the Democratic majority has failed to deal with internal divisions within their caucus on border security and blocked a vote on this important issue,” said Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, House minority leader. “House Republicans will now give our colleagues — on both sides of the aisle — the chance to force a vote on this long-overdue legislation.”
Shuler, D-Waynesville, voted for the discharge petition Tuesday.
“I would have preferred that the SAVE (Secure America through Verification and Enforcement) Act came to the floor through regular order, but it deserves to be debated and voted upon on the House floor,” he said.
Most bills usually are heard and passed by relevant committees before reaching the House floor for a vote.
A discharge petition needs 218 signatures to force a vote on the House floor. The last one to pass was in 2002 when a majority of House members voted to approve a campaign-finance reform bill over the objections of Republican leaders. It took nearly six months to attract enough signatures.
The immigration discharge petition had 119 signatures as of Tuesday afternoon and had mostly Republican support. The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, an Arizona group that stands watch on the border for illegal crossings, supported the House taking up Shuler’s bill.
The House Democratic leadership has been discussing Shuler’s bill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week.
“There is no question that we support some of the same principles: secure our border, enforce our laws, protect our workers, address the issue of undocumented people in our country and their families,” she said, “but we want it to be balanced.”
Shuler has gained 141 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors for his legislation that also would spend more on workplace enforcement of immigration laws and require employers to verify workers’ status through a Department of Homeland Security database, which currently is voluntary. He introduced his legislation in November, but it has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.