The Real Conspiracy

Maybe all of the President’s recent troubles are really part of a clever plot to get immigration reform through Congress. From Roll Call yesterday:

[I]t’s possible that such opportunities to knock Obama will actually serve immigration well. Flipping the current conventional wisdom, the IRS, DOJ and Benghazi scandals give even the most moderate Republicans the opportunity to attack the president, thereby insulating themselves from conservative attacks.

See: Obama’s Troubles Won’t Harm Immigration Bill

Migration Policy Institute Releases Analysis of Senate Immigration Reform Bill

The Migration Policy Institute has just released a detailed review of S. 744, the immigration reform bill introduced in the Senate last week. It outlines the major provisions of the bill and compares it with the major provisions in immigration bills considered by the Senate in 2006 and 2007 (but not the 2010 Menendez-Leahy bill, S. 3932, that I wrote about here).

SKILLS Act Approved by the House – Now It’s Off to Die in the Senate

If you follow this legislation closely, you already know this, but in case you missed it: the House of Representatives, to no one’s surprise, approved the House Republicans’ Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization bill, H.R. 803 (known as the SKILLS Act) on Friday, pretty much along party lines. Only two Democrats voted in favor: Rep. Matheson (UT) and Rep. Barrow (GA).

Fourteen Republicans voted against:

Paul Cook (CA)
Gary Miller (CA)
Paul Broun Jr. (GA)
Thomas Massie (KY)
Justin Amash (MI)
Walter Jones Jr. (NC)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
Jon Runyan (NJ)
Christopher Gibson (NY)
Michael Grimm (NY)
Peter King (NY)
Michael Turner (OH)
Jim Bridenstine (OK)
David McKinley (WV)

Rep. Tierney (D-MA) offered the Democrats’ substitute bill, H.R. 798, as an amendment, but again, not surprisingly, it didn’t pass.

Interestingly, the two Democratic House members vying for John Kerry’s former Senate seat, Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch, both sat out the vote.

The bill will now go on to find a nice hole to crawl into in the Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee is reportedly working on a bipartisan WIA reauthorization bill, and thus it is extremely unlikely that the SKILLS Act, having received virtually no Democratic support in the House, will ever see the light of day on the Senate floor.

It was a bit frustrating (for me, anyway) to see this bill introduced at this time, since it’s going nowhere in the Senate. Because WIA is so critical to adult education funding, adult education advocates couldn’t ignore it, but I fear that it served as a distraction from immigration reform, where I think there is better opportunity right now to generate some new awareness and support in Congress for adult education.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats Walk Out on SKILLS Act Markup Hearing

(Updated Below)

Democrats on the House Education and the Workforce Committee walked out of the committee vote Wedensday morning on the Republican-backed bill to revamp the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), claiming that the majority refused to work with them on developing a bipartisan bill. The Committee subsequently passed the bill, (H.R. 803), called the “Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills” (SKILLS) Act, by a vote of 23 to 0. (The final bill includes a couple of minor ammendments offered by Republicans, including one that would prohibit the use of WIA funds for lobbying and political activities—as well as “voter registration activities.”) Republican leaders have scheduled the bill for a floor vote next week.

During the hearing, before the walkout, Rep. John Tierney (D-MA) said that the bill “will never see the light of day in the Senate,” and from what I can gather, that is undoubtedly true.

But according to The Hill, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) highlighted the SKILLS Act in a speech last month as part of his “Making Life Work” agenda for the GOP, and really wanted to get this thing to the House floor as soon as possible.

In a joint statement, Tierney, Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said that they viewed “boycotting this proceeding as our only alternative after many months of repeatedly requesting bipartisan negotiations and being rebuffed by committee Republicans,” and claimed that “[i]t would have been a dereliction of duty to continue to participate.”

Tierney, Hinojosa, and Miller sent a letter to Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and SKILLS Act author Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) on Monday, requesting that they cancel Wednesday’s markup and instead hold “member-to-member negotiations to reach a compromise.” The three Democrats said in their statement today that they received no response. And thus the boycott.

I was just sent this exclusive video clip of the hearing, including the dramatic walkout:

Actual webcast of the hearing here.

UPDATE 3/7/13: Some good reporting yesterday from Ethan Forman in the Eagle-Tribune on the concerns of people in the in the field in the Merrimack Valley/Southern New Hampshire are about the Republican bill:

Mary Sarris, executive director of the Salem-based North Shore Workforce Investment Board, said she provided input to Tierney to help craft his version of the Workforce Investment Act update.

Tierney’s bill, Sarris said, would provide opportunities for workforce investment boards to work with certain industries to train workers, such as, for example, offering a program for machinists at a community college. She said the current law does not allow the board to use federal money to provide for group training, which could be more cost-effective.

Wayne Burton, president of North Shore Community College, one of the North Shore Workforce Investment Board’s largest providers, said the Republican bill would have “major repercussions for us of the negative kind” by consolidating programs and making it uncertain where the worker training money might go. The legislation calls for business leaders to sit on workforce investment boards, eliminating community college representation.

“The funding goes to the people that need it, and it’s not hung up in the bureaucracy,” he said.