WASHINGTON — A sweeping bipartisan plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration system headed to the Senate floor after a key committee approved it Tuesday, but not before tilting the bill to the political right with amendments designed to attract more Republican support.
The centerpiece of the legislation — a 13-year path to citizenship for many of the 11 million people now without legal status — survived intact, setting the stage for what could be the biggest victory in a generation for advocates of immigrant rights.
The vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee was 13-5, boosted by a last-minute deal to increase access to high-tech visas. That change won the support of a Republican senator beyond the two on the committee who had helped draft the bill. All Democrats voted in favor.
Foes of legalizing immigrants already in the country, once the most prominent voices in the immigration debate, are largely losing that battle, as many Republicans decided early on to...
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that he will delay votes on several of President Obama’s nominees for key posts until July, a decision raising the prospect that he’ll seek further changes to Senate rules that would allow executive appointments to be confirmed by a simple majority.
Senate leaders had considered holding a vote this week to confirm Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a nomination Republicans have maintained they would filibuster unless the Obama administration agreed to overhaul the agency.
Action is also pending on two of Obama’s Cabinet nominations — Thomas E. Perez for Labor secretary and Gina McCarthy for EPA administrator — after party-line votes in Senate committees last week. Two other Cabinet picks face confirmation hearings later this week.
At his weekly news conference, Reid told reporters that he would not bring those nominations to the full Senate until after it...
WASHINGTON – Global warming and clean energy should be priorities for Congress and the president, a majority of Americans said in a recent survey.
In the survey, released Tuesday by Yale and George Mason universities, 70% of American adults say global warming should be a priority for the nation’s leaders, while 87% say leaders should make it a priority to develop sources of clean energy. Those support levels have dropped by 7% and 5% respectively since fall.
Six in 10 Americans want the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions regardless of other countries’ emissions efforts, according to the survey. Only 6% say the U.S. should not reduce its greenhouse emissions.
The study also shows only half of Americans have heard of the Keystone XL pipeline. Among those who have heard of the pipeline, 63% support the project. The study also shows 58% of Americans support expanded drilling for oil and natural gas off the U.S. coast.
WASHINGTON — A top IRS official in the division that reviews nonprofit groups will invoke the 5th Amendment and refuse to answer questions before a House committee investigating the agency’s improper screening of conservative nonprofit groups.
Lois Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division of the IRS, won’t answer questions about what she knew about the improper screening — or why she didn’t disclose it to Congress, according to a letter from her defense lawyer, William W. Taylor III. Lerner was scheduled to appear before the House Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista). The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama met Tuesday with young immigrants and others who expressed their fear that family members will be deported and their hope that Congress will pass new immigration laws to keep families intact.
Obama urged the group to share their stories on Capitol Hill as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to send an immigration overhaul bill to the full Senate for consideration.
Mehdi Mahraoui, who was born in Morocco and came to America when he was 7, told Obama he worries that his parents and eldest sister will be deported. He is a legal permanent resident and his 8-year-old sister is a U.S. citizen, but the other family members are not.
If his parents are forced to leave, he would become sole caretaker of his little sister, he told reporters after meeting with the president.
By Joseph Tanfani, Michael A. Memoli, and Melanie Mason
WASHINGTON – The outgoing head of the IRS said the agency still doesn’t know which staff members were responsible for using politically loaded language to screen out nonprofit groups, as senators pressed them to explain how certain conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status received extra scrutiny.
The last two heads of the agency, Steven T. Miller and Douglas Shulman, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee, once again linked the problems to poor decisions by lower-level employees working in the IRS’ Cincinnati field office, but Miller said they haven’t figured out who all of those employees were. They said the IRS has not done its own internal investigation, leaving that examination to the inspector general’s office.
Miller was forced out as acting IRS commissioner last week, after the release of an audit by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration revealed that the IRS, starting in 2010, improperly selected...
WASHINGTON – When Sen. Orrin Hatch takes his seat on the dais in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, the 79-year-old slides into his status as the most sought-after vote for immigration reform.
A towering but genteel figure, Hatch is seen as the Republican domino – the first GOP senator, beyond the four in the bipartisan group that crafted the immigration bill, to potentially join the effort. No other Republican on the panel is expected to do so. A yes from Hatch could jump-start support from the party as the bill moves to the full Senate.
Getting Hatch’s vote has become such an intense pursuit that it has rearranged the committee’s workload. While the hourly grind of amending the bill is under way in the hearing room, senators work behind the scenes to test what would happen if they add some measures and subtract others to make Hatch happy.
WASHINGTON — The outlines of a possible agreement emerged Tuesday on the criteria for high-skilled visas in the immigration overhaul, potentially paving the way for a key Republican senator to support the sweeping legislation and give it a boost when it comes to a committee vote.
Talks have dragged on for days between Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and members of the bipartisan Senate group that is pushing the immigration bill on his proposals to loosen restrictions on visas for high-skilled workers. The issue is important to big business and particularly high-tech industries that have been lobbying hard for the changes.
Hatch wants to more quickly boost the number of visas available to foreign tech workers and also limit new rules that were designed to protect jobs for Americans.
By Michael A. Memoli, Matea Gold and Melanie Mason
WASHINGTON -- The former top official of the Internal Revenue Service told senators Tuesday he was “dismayed and saddened” by an inspector general’s report detailing how, during his tenure as IRS commissioner, the agency inappropriately scrutinized targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Douglas Shulman, who ran the agency for five years before retiring in November 2012, appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday morning, along with Steven T. Miller, who succeeded him as acting IRS chief, and J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. It was the second congressional appearance for Miller and George, who testified before the House Ways and Means committee on the matter last week.
Shulman, in his opening remarks, depicted the IRS as burdened with myriad responsibilities, such as assisting in stimulus efforts and cracking down on tax evasion as well as revenue collection.
WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Tuesday assured the survivors of Oklahoma’s deadly tornado that the nation is “there for them” and that the government will keep its focus on the rescue effort as long as is needed.
As emergency workers worked to find survivors amid the rubble in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, Obama said he has dispatched top officials to the region and directed his advisors to do all they can to help.
“Oklahoma needs to get everything that it needs right away,” Obama said in a morning statement at the White House.
The country will “stand with our citizens as long as it takes,” Obama said.
Authorities in the suburb of Moore, Okla., are still trying to figure out the full extent of the devastation. At least 24 people have died. The count is expected to rise as the search efforts continue. The region faces the risk of more tornadoes on Tuesday.
WASHINGTON – Top conservative leaders, along with tea party activists from across the nation, have crafted a letter of opposition to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration overhaul.
The open letter to the Senate, which will be released Tuesday, marks the first large-scale attempt to halt the bill as it gains momentum with a key Senate committee vote expected this week.
Those signing the letter include influential conservative commentators – Erick Ericksen, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin and Michele Malkin – as well as tea party leaders and talk radio hosts from around the country.
"No matter how well-intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable,” said the letter, referring to Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), key architects from the bipartisan group of eight senators that drafted the bill.