Top Six Bills That Have Stalled in the Senate

Kate's Law and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act have passed the House, but are being held up by recalcitrant senators

by Brendan Kirby | Updated 14 Nov 2017 at 7:06 AM

The House of Representatives has passed scores of bills in 2017, but unfortunately for GOP leaders, most have gone to where legislation dies a slow, agonizing death — the Senate.

President Donald Trump so far has signed 82 bills, mostly regulatory repeals and small-bore items, according to the website GovTrack. A few of the biggest parts of the Republican agenda — such as the effort to repeal Obamacare — have been voted down.

But the vast majority — 343 bills, according to GovTrack — have not yet even had the dignity of a vote. They’ve just piled up in no man’s land.

It is a fact House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) points to frequently in defending his leadership. The House, he says, has done its job.

If the federal government had a unicameral legislature, as does the state of Nebraska, or a different Senate, the Republican legislative agenda would look a lot different. Here are six major bills that might already be law if not for Senate inaction, along with their chances — as forecast by the data firm Skopos Labs — of ever reaching the president’s desk.

The Bill: Kate’s Law
Passed by the House: June 29
Chance of Becoming Law: 36 percent
The Skinny: Named for Kate Steinle, a young tourist killed in San Francisco in 2015 — allegedly by an illegal immigrant who had been released from the local jail rather than turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers — the bill would increase penalties on illegal immigrants who repeatedly cross the border.

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The defense rested last week in the trial of the accused killer, Jose Inez Garcia Zarate, who was then known at the time by the name Juan Francisco López-Sánchez. He reportedly had been deported five times and had seven felony convictions.

The House bill attracted 24 Democrats, but opposition remains intense in the Senate, and it has not come up for a vote.

Like Kate’s Law, the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act languishes in the Senate without even a promise of a vote.

The Bill: The No Sanctuary for Criminals Act
Passed by the House: June 29
Chance of Becoming Law: 35 percent
The Skinny: The bill would codify steps Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken to cut off law enforcement grant funding to jurisdictions that prohibit state and local employees from cooperating with ICE officers.

Federal courts so far have blocked Sessions from carrying out his penalties for so-called “sanctuary” jurisdictions, and the bill passed by the House proved even less popular with Democrats than Kate’s Law.

Like Kate’s Law, it languishes in the Senate without even a promise of a vote.

The Bill: The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
Passed by the House: October 3
Chance of Becoming Law: 40 percent
The Skinny: The bill would ban abortions 20 weeks after conception except in cases of rape and incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger. Doctors could be fined or face up to five years in prison for violating the law.

The House has passed this bill before, only to see it die in the Senate.

So far, the 2017 version of the law has gotten no vote.

The Bill: Funding the border wall
Passed by the House: July 27
Chance of Becoming Law: 58 percent
The Skinny: The Make America Secure Act appropriates $788 billion for defense, veterans, energy and water programs. Notably, it includes a $1.6 billion down payment for a wall along the Mexican border. It was, perhaps, Trump’s most important promise during the 2016 campaign.

The bill has not moved in the Senate, however. If Congress holds true to form, it will shove defense and other spending into a gargantuan bill next month known as an “omnibus” spending bill.

Most budget experts have argued in vain that funding the government in this way is a terrible way to make policy. What’s more, the prospects that funding for a border wall would make it into such a bill are far from certain given how vehemently Senate Democrats oppose the idea.

The Bill: The Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers Restraining Excessive Seizure of Property through the Exploitation of Civil Asset Forfeiture Tools (RESPECT) Act
Passed by the House: September 5
Chance of Becoming Law: 18 percent
The Skinny: The bill would rein in the power of the Internal Revenue Service by limiting the tax agency’s civil asset forfeiture authority. Under the legislation, if IRS agents believe funds had been structured to avoid reporting requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act, they would have to demonstrate probable cause that those funds came from an illegal source or were otherwise connected to criminal activity.

The bill also offers procedural protections to people whose funds have been seized by the IRS based on allegations of structuring.

A different version of the bill also passed the House in 2016. The current version passed in September on a voice vote. Still, no action has been taken in the Senate.

The Bill: The Email Privacy Act
Passed by the House: February 6
Chance of Becoming Law: 36 percent
The Skinny: Another bill with broad bipartisan support, the Email Privacy Act passed the House on a voice vote in February.

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It would improve privacy protections for electronic communications stored by a third-party provider. The government also would be required to get a search warrant before a provider could be compelled to disclose the content of communications.

The House passed an earlier version last year, but it died in the Senate.

This year, the Senate again has sat on it — so far for nine months.

(photo credit, homepage images: Mitch McConnell, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore; photo credit, article images: Mitch McConnell, CC BY-SA 2.0, by Gage Skidmore)

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