House passes "Kate's Law" 257-167

Donald Trump and Rep. Steve King are having a good day in one chamber of Congress today, anyway. The House passed key parts of Trump’s immigration platform today, two bills authored by King and others. The most well-known of the bills is “Kate’s Law” that toughens penalties on absconders and deported aliens who come back into the US, which passed on a bipartisan 257-167 vote:

Lawmakers also passed a bill that would increase penalties against deported immigrants who reenter the country illegally. That bill is a response to the 2015 murder of Kate Steinle in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported five times and was convicted of seven felonies.

Republicans have tried to pass Kate’s Law since then, and are hoping the bill can finally become law under President Trump, who supports it. President Obama had opposed it.

The bill would let judges increase penalties against illegal immigrants who are deported after being convicted of a crime, and who then reenter the country. …

Under the bill, if a deported alien reentered the U.S. illegally with a felony conviction or three misdemeanors on their record, he or she would go to prison for up to 10 years. Someone who is caught illegally crossing the border after having been deported three or more times would also serve up to 10 years.

Trump took to Twitter to offer his congratulations — and a message to the other chamber, where news hasn’t been anywhere as good recently:

Ted Cruz, who has sponsored the Senate version of Kate’s Law (S. 45), issued a statement praising the House for its passage, adding, “I look forward to the Senate swiftly taking up this bill and hopefully, passing it.” That’s easier said than done, however, as Democrats have pledged to oppose practically everything on Trump’s immigration agenda. The House did get 24 Democrats to cross over on the roll-call vote, including a couple of surprises such as Jackie Speier, Patrick Murphy (FL), and Occupy-extolling Peter DeFazio.

Mitch McConnell will need eight crossovers in the Senate, and probably will get some easy pickups from Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp, but Democrats managed to filibuster it last year with fewer members, and it’s almost a sure bet they’ll try it again. At the time, Democrats cited the need to rebuke Trump:

However, Democrats strongly opposed the measures.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said they put presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “ant-immigration rhetoric into action.”

“These bills follow Trump’s lead in demonizing, criminalizing immigrant, Latino families,” the Nevada Democrat said before the votes.

Reid’s no longer there, but Chuck Schumer is, and he won’t want to give Trump a win. Expect to see it bottled up for good, and for Trump and Republicans to make it a big issue in the 2018 Senate elections. With Democrats trying to hold ten seats where Trump won in 2016, that might be a real problem, especially with their party clearly not gaining much traction in heavily contested special elections in Trumpland. Pat Toomey’s complaint last year will almost inevitably get worked into campaign ads: “At some point, a person needs to go to jail. That’s what Kate’s Law does.”

As for the other two bills, there’s even less chance the Senate will ever come to a vote. The bill to deny federal funds to so-called “sanctuary cities” passed too, but on a much closer party-line vote:

In largely party line votes, the House approved two bills. One would cut off some federal grants from so-called sanctuary cities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities; the other would impose tougher sentences on criminals who have entered the U.S. illegally multiple times.

“For years, the lack of immigration enforcement and spread of sanctuary policies have cost too many lives,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the author of both bills.

The sanctuary city bill passed 228-195, while the sentencing bill passed 257-167.

That bill incorporated King’s “Sarah’s Law,” which requires ICE to take custody of any illegal alien that commits a crime resulting in death or serious injury to a victim. If anything, the Democratic caucus will be more united in blocking the legislation in the Senate. Sanctuary cities are the party’s base these days, and they’re not going to let Republicans choke off their federal funding.

These are still wins for the GOP, but perhaps more for their ability to frame the issues in 2018 than for any chance at a signing ceremony in the White House.