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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I call up to my pending amendment No. 1228.

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Mr. VITTER. I ask unanimous consent to waive reading of the amendment.

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, this amendment was in the group of four that was the subject of the previous unanimous consent so I look forward to an ongoing debate and vote on this amendment, hopefully early next week, because we need to start voting on this topic and on amendments to this bill. The amendment is simple and in my opinion very important. It would mandate finally that we have an operational US-VISIT system to track visas coming into the country and exiting the country to guard against visa overstays.

This is an important part of security and enforcement, but one that is not talked about enough. We always talk about the border, as we should. We often talk about workplace enforcement, as we should. That is extremely important. This is the third leg of the stool that we do not talk about enough but we need to focus on because this goes to our national security as well as border security.

The 9/11 terrorists all were individuals who came into this country legally, with a visa, but what happened? They overstayed their visa by a lot and they plotted to kill and destroy, which unfortunately they successfully did on 9/11. Because of that, one of the top recommendations of the 9/11 Commission was to implement this visa entry-exit system using biometric data. We call the system that has been developed the US-VISIT system. The problem is full implementation of the US-VISIT system has never come close to occurring as the 9/11 Commission recommended that it be executed.

This amendment says simply we are finally going to do it. We have talked about it for years. We have lived through actual terrorist attacks that go to the heart of this need. The 9/11 Commission has rated it as a top recommendation, so we are finally going to do it. We are not going to move on to changing the legal status of current illegals in this country under this bill until we do it and until we verify that it has been done. That is a very simple idea.

I look forward to a continuing debate on this need, on this amendment, and a vote on this amendment early next week.

Second, I also want to mention a point of order I will be making on this underlying bill as soon as possible, hopefully also early next week. The point of order is simple. It is a point of order against the emergency designation provision contained in the bill in section (d)(1). It is pursuant to section 403(e) of the fiscal year 2010 budget resolution.

We all consider spending and debt a big problem in this country. We put enormous focus and energy and debate and discussion on that issue. The problem is so often, after we set budget caps, after we set these limits with the very serious spending and debt issue in mind, whenever a big bill comes up they bust the caps. We put a so-called emergency designation on the spending and all of a sudden, like that, with that simple phrase we exempt that entire bill from the spending caps, from the provisions we have put in place to try to get spending and debt under control.

This immigration reform bill is another example of that because it would spend $8.3 billion and it calls all of that spending emergency spending. That is a sleight of hand. That is avoiding the caps and the limits we have tried to put in place to begin to rein in spending and debt.

This is not an emergency in any reasonable sense of the term. This is not an unforeseen storm. This is not an unpredicted earthquake. This is not an unpredicted attack on our country from a foreign power. This is a problem, for sure, but we have annual spending bills and a whole department of government that is supposed to be about this problem--the Department of Homeland Security. We have an annual Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, so this is not something unforeseen, a true emergency. To call this $8.3 billion emergency spending is a pure sleight of hand to avoid the discipline of the spending caps.

At least on my side of the aisle, when this exact same point of order has been made before on many other bills, we have upheld it. We have said: You are right, this is a sleight of hand. You are right, this is an end run around those budget provisions. You are right, this is just busting the budget cap by another name.

We should do the same here. We should respect the budget law. We should not do an end run around the budget caps. We should not essentially lie to the American people and say this is unforeseen, this is a true emergency, when it is not.

I will be raising this very important budget point of order regarding the emergency designation of $8.3 billion of spending in the bill at the earliest possible opportunity, when it is in order. I expect that to be early next week as well.

Mr. President, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. VITTER. Yes, I withhold the quorum call.

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