What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Immigration Law Reform : HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to prohibit illegal immigrants from qualifying for Social Security/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 262)
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HR 2669. (Student loans reconciliation) Procedural question on whether to prohibit illegal immigrants from qualifying for Social Security/On the motion
senate Roll Call 262     Jul 19, 2007
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This vote was part of a disagreement between Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Ensign, R-Nev., related to Social Security benefits for immigrants. Specifically, this vote was on whether to allow an amendment by Stabenow that would have expressly prohibited illegal immigrants from qualifying for Social Security benefits. Stabenow attempted to tack this language onto a pending amendment Ensign had offered as a way of expressing her displeasure over Ensign's amendment. The amendment battle occurred as part of an unrelated bill that would overhaul student loans.

Stabenow's amendment would also have changed the enforcement focus of Ensign's amendment from those who have been naturalized, to those who are currently in the country illegally.

Ensign's amendment, which Stabenow sought to modify, would have required that naturalized American citizens who want time spent working in America to count toward determining their Social Security benefits prove that they were authorized to work inside the country during that time period. Ensign said this will help prevent people who were in the country illegally, but have since been naturalized, from claiming the time prior to their naturalization for Social Security purposes.

Ensign said his amendment would help combat identity theft by discouraging illegal immigrants from using others' Social Security numbers. "My amendment denies Social Security benefits for illegal, fraud-based work. It also ensures an individual who is on a visa overstay, or someone who has a card in their name but is working here illegally will not get credit for that illegal work," Ensign said.

"It reaffirms that illegal immigrants cannot and will not receive Social Security benefits. It focuses the Attorney General to strongly and vigorously enforce this provision, and it focuses enforcement efforts against those who are here illegally, not American citizens who are naturalized and here legally," Stabenow said of her amendment. "Unfortunately, whether intended or not, the Ensign amendment would threaten the Social Security benefits of millions of Americans. It makes no sense. We need to focus the Attorney General on those who are here illegally, and make it very clear that no one who is here illegally can receive Social Security benefits, period," Stabenow said.

Ensign then attempted to use a procedural maneuver to have Stabenow's amendment to his amendment killed because her amendment was not related (or "germane") to the underlying student loan bill. In some cases, when portions of a bill violate certain congressional rules, the bill can be quickly defeated with these procedural motions unless the Senate votes to waive the rule in question. One of these Senate rules requires that amendments be related to the subject of the bill itself. When Ensign moved to have Stabenow's amendment defeated on the grounds that it was not "germane" enough, Stabenow called a vote on waiving that Senate rule for her amendment.

Though 53 voted for waiving the rules and 44 voted aganst it, this particular type of vote requires a three-fifths majority of the Senate (60 votes) in order for it to be considered approved. All but eight Republicans present voted against waiving the rules. All but four Democrats present voted for waiving the rules. The waiver vote was unsuccessful, thus Stabenow's amendment that would have stipulated that illegal immigrants may not qualify for Social Security benefits was killed by the procedural motion.

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