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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CORKER. Madam President, it is my understanding that Senator Leahy is yielding time--or maybe it is Senator Landrieu who is yielding time. Somebody is yielding time.

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Mr. CORKER. Madam President, I want to speak today on the amendment. I know the Senator from Texas, my friend and someone I respect, made numerous comments about the bill. But actually the vote we have today is about the border security amendment that has been negotiated and a lot of people have worked on. I know some of his comments refer to some portions of the amendment. Mostly, he was talking about the bill itself.

The issue before us today is the border security amendment the Senator from North Dakota and myself and many others worked on. I want to put this in context, if I can. Fifteen days ago in the Republican caucus at what we call our conference lunch, there was a discussion about the ways of trying to make this immigration bill better. The Senator from North Dakota had a base bill dealing with border security, and many of us at the time said what we could do is take a base border security amendment, expand it, and try to accommodate many of the desires of people in our caucus with other provisions in it that many Senators here in this body wanted to see happen. Two Fridays ago, we actually had about 12 offices come together for a meeting to talk about many of those attributes they felt would make this bill better. So over time we developed a 115-page amendment--some people say 119-page amendment--dealing with not just border security but many issues people in this body thought would make this bill better.

There has been some dispute about the size of this amendment; I know we have had some discussion from people on the floor. It is unfortunate that sometimes people will come to the Senate floor and say things that are a little over the top in order to make a point. But I will note that today some of my friends on my side of the aisle received multiple Pinocchios, if you will, from a very well-respected publication, because the fact is the amendment is as we have said.

Because of the rules of construction in the Senate, when we add a 119- or 115-page amendment to a 1,100-page bill and we intersperse the amendment throughout it, no doubt we come up with a 1,200-page bill, if you will. The fact is, 1,100 of those pages we have had since April. They have been through committee. People offered amendments. So let me say I think the amendment size issue has been totally rebutted. I would say the Senator from North Dakota and myself have certainly carried the day on that issue. I think it is a fact now. We understand the size.

We know this amendment has some things in it other than border security. That was part of the process in getting to a place where we enhanced the bill.

Some people are talking about the cost, and my friend from Texas was just speaking. If my colleagues noticed--and it is very important around here to listen--he talked about on-budget costs. First of all, everybody in this body knows the problem we have in America today is the off-budget items and that our entitlement programs are what are driving the huge deficits we have in this Nation. So it is the entitlement issues most people who speak about deficit reduction are focused on because we have done so much already on what we call the discretionary side, which is the on-budget piece.

CBO has scored this bill and basically they have said--not basically, they have said if this bill were to pass, when we take into account the entitlements and we take into account the discretionary spending, which is what is called on-budget, we will reduce the deficit by $197 billion. One of the main reasons that is the case is when immigrants move into what is called the temporary status, they pay in for 10 years, and one of the toughest provisions in this bill is they cannot receive any benefits for 10 years. Think about that. We have this huge amount of money that is going to be coming into the Social Security Program and coming into the Medicare Program which, candidly, helps people in this Nation because it makes those programs more solvent.

We have to listen to the words here. Let's think about it when people talk about the cost of this border security amendment. Yes, it costs $46 billion to implement these items--which, by the way, almost every Republican has championed for years, all of the items in this border surge, if you will--but it costs $46 billion. I will tell my colleagues I have been here 6 1/2 years and I would put my credentials on focusing on deficit issues with anyone in this body. I have never had an opportunity to vote for a bill that cost $46 billion over a 10-year period but generated $197 billion into the Treasury without raising anybody's taxes and, I might add, also generating economic growth for our country. So I want to debunk that. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to actually reduce our deficit while, at the same time, securing our border.

People are talking about process--and I am coming to the end here. It is interesting to me that the very people, I hate to say it, on my side of the aisle who have been raising cain, if you will, about the fact there aren't enough amendments are the very people who are objecting to amendments being offered.

Look, this is the old game that is played around here: Well, we think we ought to have 35 amendments. We think we ought to have--but somebody on my side is objecting. Most people in the country don't understand that in the Senate we have something called unanimous consent, and if one Senator disagrees, it cannot happen--one Senator. So we have had this situation going back and forth where we have tried to have amendments. I agree, let's have amendments. There is one amendment in particular I wish we could vote on and pass. I would love to see it. But guess what. I want everybody to know the very people who are saying they want to have more amendments are objecting to more amendments. So understand what is happening here on the Senate floor.

There will be some people who say, Well, I am going to vote against this because of the process. I want America to understand what is happening in this body right now. As a matter of fact, I don't know if it is true, but my understanding was the other side was actually going to agree to 35 amendments, and people heard that and they said: Well, my gosh, they might accept 35 amendments. Go down there and file more amendments because we are afraid they are actually going to agree to what it is we are asking for. So we will see.

Let me close with this: Nobody in this body can say the amendment we are voting on today does not do anything someone can imagine relative to border security. My good friend from Texas spent a lot of time drafting a border security bill that had 5,000 Border Patrol agents. This one has 20,000--20,000 Border Patrol agents. This amendment calls for 20,000 Border Patrol agents. It doubles the number of Border Patrol agents on our southern border.

We are adding $4.5 billion worth of technology that the chief of border control has been trying to get for years, bought and paid for in this bill.

We are adding an entry-exit visa program that has to be fully in place.

We are adding E-Verify for every employer in the country.

We are also adding 350 miles of fencing.

People are saying: Well, we don't know if this will ever happen. My colleagues should read the triggers. If it doesn't happen, nobody gets a green card, and every American can see whether this happened.

Then people are saying, Well, on the fencing piece--nobody, by the way, debates the 20,000 Border Patrol; nobody debates E-Verify; nobody debates entry-exit; nobody debates the $4.5 billion

in technology. But then people are saying, Well, wait a minute. On the fencing piece, though, the Homeland Security Secretary can decide where it goes. Well, my friends in good government--and I happen to be with one of those--yes, it does say she can decide in section 5 of the bill which places work best.

We know the people from Texas don't even want a fence. People in Arizona wish to have a fence. But it still says under the triggers--and people are trying to malign and trying to fool people all out across America because they know what is getting ready to happen. The fact is, without the 350 miles ironclad, in place, there is no green card. So all five provisions have to be in place.

I know people try to spin things when they get on television and they try to say things to confuse America. What I would say to America is read the bill. I think Americans would be proud of border security, which brings me to a close here today.

Here is what I want to say: On the procedural vote that took place 2 days ago, every single Democrat voted to end debate on this border security measure. We had 15 Republicans who voted for it. The process issue is behind us and today we are voting on the amendment itself. I don't know how any Republican can look a TV camera or a constituent in the eye and not say this amendment strengthens--surges--on the border and makes our border more secure. So if, for some reason, Republicans come to the floor today--a majority of Republicans--and they vote against this border security amendment, what is going to happen is the Democrats are going to own the border security issue, and basically Republicans--whose constituents I think in some cases care more about this issue than many people on the other side--will be giving up this issue.

I don't know how any Republican can go back home and say to their constituents: I voted against adding Border Patrol agents and I voted against adding a fence on the southern border and I voted against an E-Verify system and I voted against an exit-entry program and I voted against the technology our Border Patrol chief wants. I voted against it because I didn't like the process. I voted against it because this bill has been before us now for over 2 months and I had a chance to make amendments in the Judiciary Committee and I had a chance to make amendments on the floor but, candidly, I didn't want that to happen, so I kept that from occurring.

I would ask my friends: Please, today is about an amendment to a bill that makes it stronger. My colleagues may not like every provision, but we cannot look folks in the eye back home and say this isn't something that those who care about border security would know surges the border, makes this country safer, and I would say makes this bill a much stronger bill.

With that, I yield the floor. I hope my good friend and great partner from the State of North Dakota will make some comments.

I wish to thank Senator Leahy from Vermont for his generosity with time this morning.

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Mr. CORKER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent for 30 seconds.

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