What: All Issues : Aid to Less Advantaged People, at Home & Abroad : Immigrants : S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Inhofe of Oklahoma amendment that would declare English the national language of the U.S./On agreeing to the amendment (2007 senate Roll Call 198)
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S 1348. (Immigration overhaul) Inhofe of Oklahoma amendment that would declare English the national language of the U.S./On agreeing to the amendment
senate Roll Call 198     Jun 06, 2007
Progressive Position:
Nay
Progressive Result:
Loss

This vote was on an amendment by Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., that would declare English as the national language of the United States. The amendment also would stipulate that unless the law states otherwise, there is no entitlement for providing government materials or communications in any language other than English. The amendment was offered to a bill intended to overhaul America's immigration system.

Inhofe's amendment was introduced as a counterpoint to an amendment offered by Ken Salazar, D-Colo. Salazar's amendment would declare English the "common and unifying language of the United States" and stipulate that nothing in the bill would diminish any existing laws related to providing government materials in languages other than English.

Salazar's amendment was later adopted.

Salazar said that Inhofe's amendment is problematic because it runs contrary several states' existing laws requiring that states provide documents in both English and Spanish. "I believe this is a States rights issue, and those constitutions of those States ought to be respected. There are other States in our Union which have decided they are going to adopt English as their official language. I believe that is a matter the States ought to decide.. I do not believe it is a matter we ought to be imposing here from Washington," Salazar said.

Inhofe argued that adopting his amendment and then later adopting Salazar's would have the effect of gutting Inhofe's amendment. "I am just saying to you, as my friends out here, do not vote for both of us because if you vote for both of us, you are voting to make English the official language, and then, in the very next vote, you are taking it away and reinstating the original language in the bill," Inhofe said.

Inhofe's amendment was adopted by a vote of 64-33. Most Democrats voted against the amendment, including the most progressive members of the Senate, though 13 voted for it. All Republicans voted against the amendment, except for Pete Domenici, R-N.M., whose state is one that requires documents be provided in English and Spanish. Thus, the bill went forward with language declaring English the national language of the U.S. and stipulating that that unless provided for in statute, no entitlement exists for providing government materials or communications in any language other than English. Salazar's amendment was also adopted. Because both amendments were adopted and contain contradictory language, the dispute will have to be resolved later. The next chance for the contradictory language to be fixed will be when the House and Senate meet for a conference committee, where differences between the two chambers' versions are resolved.

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