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Dave Camp: Senate Immigration Bill Unconstitutional

Image: Dave Camp: Senate Immigration Bill Unconstitutional

Friday, 12 Jul 2013 10:43 AM

By Lisa Barron

The Senate immigration bill is unconstitutional because it raises taxes and violates the requirement that all revenue bills must originate in the House, according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp.

The Senate bill, he said, includes "a number of revenue-related measures such as fees, penalties, surcharges, and the non-payment of taxes," the California Democrat said in a statement Thursday reported by Politico. "As such, any consideration of the Senate bill in the House would also be unconstitutional. The House will have to consider its own legislation.”

He cited Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, known as the Origination Clause, which requires that all “revenue” (tax) measures start in the lower chamber.

Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders already had decided to pursue legislation separate from the Senate bill before Camp issued his statement.

But Camp still made a point of outlining five instances in which he said the Senate bill violates the Origination Clause, pointing first to the mandate that some fines and fees go into the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Trust Fund to pay for implementation of the legislation and border security.

In addition, he said, the parts of the measure preventing non-citizens from receiving premium tax credits included in Obamacare would have a "revenue effect," and that not requiring agricultural employers "to pay or withhold taxes from paychecks would reduce federal revenues."

Finally, Camp argued, requiring employers to pay a fee into the STEM Education and Training Account and mandating the collection of a surcharge on visas also violates the clause.

Reacting to the statement, Democrats suggested there are ways around the constitutional technicalities, including one simple fix that would simply rename and renumber the Senate legislation passed by that chamber before the July Fourth recess as a House bill.

"If the House Republican leadership gets to the point that they want to vote on the Senate bill, all they would have to do is copy and paste [the legislation] and rename it as H.R.," one Senate Democratic aide told Politico, adding this is "not an insurmountable obstacle in any way."

But Camp’s statement is likely to encourage opposition in the House among Republicans, many of whom are opposed to any comprehensive overhaul of the immigration law that sets up a process to allow illegal immigrants to become citizens.

Texas Rep. Steve Stockman, for one, has been urging Boehner to use a procedure called a "blue slip" resolution that would automatically kill the Senate legislation on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

Stockman suggested on Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has not yet sent the Senate-passed bill to the House because he fears it will be returned through the "blue slip" process.

"Even Harry Reid now admits the Senate’s amnesty bill is unconstitutional and cannot become law. Any bill that raises revenue must start in the House," Stockman said in a news release. "By creating their own amnesty taxes, Senate Democrats broke the rules. They got caught trying to sneak an illegal bill past the Constitution’s borders."

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