By Michael O’Brien and J. Taylor Rushing
The Senate will convene briefly on Thursday for a rare session during its August recess to pass a $600 million border security bill.
Just days into its five-week break, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid ‘s (D-Nev.) office said the chamber would go back to work at 10 a.m. Thursday to pass the border-security bill as well as a resolution honoring the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
Stevens died Monday night in a plane crash in southwest Alaska. Once the Senate adjourns, it is not scheduled to reconvene until Sept. 13.
Because the bill is expected to pass unanimously, only two senators are expected to attend — Democrats Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland. Under Senate rules, only two members must be present if legislation is unanimously consented to by all others.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley said he has received assurances that no Republicans plan to block the bill or the resolution, and aides to GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said there are also unaware of any objections.
“The bill will pass by unanimous consent — again,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart in a statement.
Stewart also took a shot at Schumer and other Senate Democrats for forcing the chamber to return from recess. Stewart said Schumer had made a legislative error by attaching his immigration bill to House legislation that included revenue raisers. Such legislation must be approved by the House first under the Constitution.
“As you may know, he attached his bill to the wrong type of House legislation causing a “blue slip” problem with the House,” Stewart said. “The House fixed it, and so now the Senate has to convene for a few minutes to pass it — again.”
The Senate session follows a special session of the House on Tuesday, when lawmakers were recalled to Washington to pass a state aid bill. The House on Tuesday also quickly passed the $600 million bill after a voice vote and limited debate, setting up a final vote in the Senate before it can go to President Obama.
Schumer’s office confirmed his and Cardin’s appearance. The New York lawmaker has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform and released a statement that said the bill will reduce the federal deficit by $48 million.
“Further securing our borders is an urgent priority that shouldn’t wait,” Schumer said. “This bill will confront the challenges at the border head-on without raising the deficit and will set the stage for passing more comprehensive immigration reform.”
Manley said the Senate would meet “for the sole purpose of receiving and passing by consent H.R. 6080, border security, and a resolution on the death of Senator Stevens. This will be an extremely short session as we will just be doing these two items.”
The bill funds more than 1,000 additional federal agents for the southern border and allows the dispatching of unmanned aerial drones to help monitor border crossings.
Immigration has been a simmering topic on the national stage this year, with Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signing a controversial crack-down law that has brought a court challenge by the Obama administration. The Senate tried and failed to pass immigration reform twice, in 2006 and 2007, and there is little appetite to raise this issue again this year with elections looming in November.
In recent days, Republican focus has turned to grass-roots interest in repealing a provision of the 14th Amendment that automatically grants birthright citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants. Prominent GOP senators such as McConnell, Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) have all called for hearings on the issue.