Border security bill passes while senators are on vacation

a vintage photograph of the Senate chamber

The border security bill passed in an empty Senate chamber as the $600 million measure cleared while the politicians are on vacation. Marion Doss/Flickr photo.

How do you get a bill passed in the Senate?

Send the senators home.

The border security bill cleared the Senate on Thursday. Only two Democrats were in the session while the Senate is on its August vacation. The $600 million border security bill aims to put more agents and surveillance equipment along the U.S./Mexico border. Border states dealing with illegal immigration and drug trafficking have been pressuring the federal government to take concrete steps toward border security. The House passed the border security bill on Tuesday. President Obama said he would sign the bill into law on Friday.

Bill funds 1,500 border security jobs

The Senate convened a special session Thursday to pass the border security bill. The bill passed by unanimous consent, a parliamentary term for a voice vote that doesn’t require the return of the entire Senate chamber. Senate Republicans actually agreed to the maneuver. The Associated Press reports that the bill  funds U.S./Mexico border security jobs for 1,000 new Border Patrol agents, 250 more Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, and 250 more Customs and Border Protection officers. It also funds new communications equipment and greater use of unmanned surveillance drones. About a third of the money goes to the Justice Department to help agencies such as the FBI, the DEA and the ATF deal with drug dealers and human traffickers.

Bill boosts U.S. visa program fees

The border security bill is election year theater both parties hope convince voters the Washington is capable of addressing border security in the wake of Arizona’s immigration law. The Los Angeles Times reports that the $600 million price tag of the border security bill will be paid for by substantially boosting fees on companies that hire foreign workers using U.S visa programs. Immigration advocates have denounced the package as an election year stunt that will do little to address the complex problems of illegal immigration. The politicians say securing the border first will allow a broader debate on immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.

Rare special session gets results

The special session marked only the second time that the Senate convened during its summer recess since the break was mandated in 1970, according to the Senate Historical Office. The New York Times reports that Charles E. Schumer of New York and Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, both Democrats, were the only senators present. Both the Senate and the House had already passed the border security bill. But a violation of the senate’s arcane procedural rules required a do-over. The only other time the Senate unexpectedly reconvened during the summer recess was after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

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