Gang of Eight

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The Gang of Eight in the context of Congress has two meanings. Most recently, the Gang of Eight has been used in reference to immigration reform and includes eight of the most influential Senators, with four from each party.[1][2] The Gang of Eight was credited with writing the first draft of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, or S.744.[3]

Historically it has referred to eight members of Congress: four members, the chair and ranking member, of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Select Committees on Intelligence and the four leaders of the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.[4][5]

The Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980 mandated that the CIA “fully and currently [inform]” Congressional oversight committees of their activities including “any significant anticipated intelligence activity.”[4]

In special cases, the Act authorized the President to brief only the majority and minority leaders of each chamber as well as the chairmen and ranking minority members of the Intelligence Committees. It is this group that is informally known as the "Gang of Eight" of Congress.[4]


U.S. Senate

Within the U.S. Senate, there is a "Gang of Eight" pertaining to immigration reform made up of eight of the most influential senators, with four from each party, including:

113th Congress


Immigration reform bill

Members of the Senate in early May 2013 started targeting as many as two dozen Republicans for a show-of-force majority, which they believe may be the only way an immigation reform bill will have the momentum to force the U.S. House to act.[4] Proponents of immigration reform are looking for votes beyond the usual moderate senators to ones in conservative strongholds such as Utah, Georgia and Wyoming, and targets because they are retiring, representing agricultural states, anxious to get the issue behind the party, important to persuading skittish U.S. House Republicans, or all of the above.[4][1]

On May 6, 2013 Senators John McCain (R), Chuck Schumer (D), Richard Durbin (D), Robert Menendez (D), Michael Bennet (D), Lindsey Graham (R), Marco Rubio (R), and Jeff Flake (R) unveiled the outlines of their bi-partisan immigration plan.[1][2] The statement of principles was rather broad, but sets forth “four basic pillars”:

  • 1. A “tough but fair path to citizenship . . . .contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country as required”;
  • 2. Reform our legal immigration system with a greater eye toward our economic needs;
  • 3. Workplace verification; and
  • 4. Setting up a system for admitting future workers (although the term “guest worker” is not used).[2]

In essence, the eight senators refused to accept the idea that the United States will deport any substantial numbers of illegal immigrants already in the country.[2]

On June 4, 2013 Marco Rubio, who helped to craft the immigration reform bill, announced that based upon the current status of the bill, he would not support it.[6] Rubio made it clear that the bill must be amended to included specific enforcement procedures that will prevent another influx of illegal immigrants, and without that he will not support the bill because it would not pass in the House.[6] Rubio changed his opinion of the bill in an appearance on ABC's "This Week" on June 16, 2013, in which he said that he supports the vast majority of what is in the bill and sees the final legislation resolving his concerns.[7] Rubio spoke of the bill saying, "It's an excellent starting point. And I think 95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go. But there are elements that need to be improved."[7]

The House of Representatives passed an amendment defunding President Obama's executive order exempting young illegal immigrants from deportation on June 6, 2013. This was the first immigration-related vote in the House this year. It comes as a test before the Gang of Eight's immigration bill makes it to the House.[8]

Statement from CBO

On June 18, 2013 the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a statement that the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration bill will significantly reduce the federal budget deficit in its first two decades if it becomes law.[9] In the first ten years, the immigration bill is said to reduce the federal deficit by $175 billion, according to the CBO, by cutting the deficit by $197 billion in the first decade, but implementing the bill would cost about $22 billion. In the second 10-year period, the deficit is said to decrease by an additional $700 billion, according to the CBO.[9]

Cornyn amendment tabled

The amendment proposed by John Cornyn (R) was rejected by the Senate in a roll call vote on June 20, 2013.[10][11] By a 54-43 vote, mostly along party lines, the Senate approved a decision to table the amendment.[11] The amendment would required a 90 percent border apprehension rate, increased surveillance, a biometric exit system and national E-Verify system as prerequisites for newly documented immigrants to gain green-card status.[11]

The Gang of Eight for the most part voted together — with the exception of Marco Rubio, who voted against killing the Cornyn provision.[11] The other three Gang Republicans, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and John McCain of Arizona, voted to table the Cornyn amendment, as did Rand Paul.[11] Two Democrats, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, joined Republicans to vote against tabling the amendment.[11]

Bill passes Senate

On June 27, 2013 in a late afternoon vote, the Senate voted to approve the immigration reform bill, Senate Bill 744.[12] The bill passed by a vote of 68-to-32, with 14 Republicans voting in favor.[13][12]

Vice President Joe Biden, acting in his constitutional capacity as head of the Senate, took the rare step of presiding over the roll call.[13] During the vote Senators voted from their seats in the chamber, which is also an unusual occurrence.[13]

If enacted, the bill would create a 13-year path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, while raising the cap on visas for high skilled workers and establishing a new visa program for low skilled workers on America's farms.[12][13]

A recently added border security amendment, introduced by Sens. John Hoeven (R) of North Dakota and Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, would require 20,000 more border agents, complete 700 miles of fence along the boundary with Mexico and deploy $3.2 billion in technology upgrades similar to equipment used by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.[13] The amendment also strengthens eligibility verification and border entry-exit controls.[13]

Most undocumented immigrants would be eligible for permanent residency only after the five conditions have been met and verified by the Department of Homeland Security.[13][12]

Hastert Rule in House

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) on July 8, 2013 ridiculed the House’s strategy of using the “Hastert rule” to pass legislation and said Speaker John Boehner will eventually have to take up the Senate’s immigration bill.[14]

Reid said Boehner’s adherence to the “Hastert Rule” requiring a majority of Republican caucus votes to move legislation is emblematic of the lower chamber’s dysfunction.[15]

“Eventually he’ll be forced to take the bill that we passed here, or the country will be left with no immigration reform at all. Which is a bad, bad outcome. I remind the speaker there is no shame in passing bills both parties can support,” Reid said.[15]

Impact on 2014 elections and beyond

Several Republican members of the U.S. House might face a tougher path to re-election in 2014 if immigration reform does not pass in the House this year, according to a Public Policy Poll released on July 9, 2013.[16]

According to the poll, a majority of voters in seven Republican congressional districts would be less likely to vote for their current representative if he fails support immigration reform. Voters also reported in the poll that they would be less likely to support Republican candidates in the 2014 general election if the Republican House members block the current immigration reform proposal.[16] The seven Representatives include Jeff Denham, David Valadao and Gary Miller, all of California, Mike Coffman of Colorado, John Kline of Minnesota, Joe Heck of Nevada and Mike Grimm of New York.[16]

Speaker John Boehner told House Republicans in a closed-door meeting on July 10, 2013 that the internal debate over immigration reform is an “important conversation," and that while the House will not take up the Senate-passed bill, members must do something to address the issue.[17]

Since the Senate passed its comprehensive immigration reform bill, House Republicans have the party on their shoulders: if they can’t pass a bill, it could hurt the party's relationship with Hispanic voters for years to come, and cement the idea that the party is a roadblock to bipartisan legislation.[17]

A rare coalition with groups from across the political spectrum are looking for ways to convince member of the House to act.[18] The heads of the conservative American Action Forum, Americans of Tax Reform and the American Conservative Union sent a joint letter to congressional leaders calling for passage of a comprehensive bill. Labor groups are dispatching members to congressional offices and running ads in a dozen House districts.[18] The Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of Christian groups are holding a gathering in Washington D.C. in July 2013.[18]

Pelosi calls for own House bill

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on July 10, 2013 that the House should determine its own comprehensive immigration bill separate from the one passed by the Senate.[19]

Pelosi stated, “I always support the prerogatives of the House, and I want the House to have a bill that goes to conference where the debate will take place. The Senate passing a bill gives leverage to those who want a bill in the House because the pressure is on them to do something if you want to exercise the prerogatives of the House. So we view it as a positive step.”[19]

Her comments came at a news conference with four members of the border caucus — Reps. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Filemon Vela (D-Texas), Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) — who voiced strong concerns about the security provisions included in the Senate bill. Calling it a “militarization” of the border, members pointed to the volume of trade between the U.S. and Mexico as being at risk if border security goes too far.[19]

Pelosi said she sent a letter to Boehner on July 10, 2013 calling for a bipartisan approach in the House.[19]

Kids Act

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R), the second-ranking House Republican, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R) are working on legislation that would craft a path to legalization for young immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children, tentatively titled the Kids Act, as of July 12, 2013.[20]

Though its objective is similar to that of the DREAM Act, a bill that would allow eligible young, undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship, the "Kids Act" version is certain to have key differences from that legislation, as both Cantor and Goodlatte voted against the DREAM Act in December 2010.[20]

In a statement Goodlatte said, “These children came here through no fault of their own and many of them know no other home than the United States. This is one component of immigration reform — any successful reform plan must improve our legal immigration programs, strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws, and find a way to fairly deal with those who are currently in the country unlawfully.”[20]

Goodlatte noted that it was part of the House Republicans’ “step-by-step” strategy on immigration reform.[20] So far, his committee has passed four bills that overhaul some section of the nation’s immigration laws, while the House Homeland Security Committee has passed a bill on border security.[20]

Members target House GOP

Some Senate Gang of Eight members are increasing the pressure on House Republicans by enlisting the support of companies, conservatives, and nonprofit groups in an effort to target a list of 129 congressmen who may be willing to vote for a comprehensive immigration-overhaul bill.[21]

Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham joined Chuck Schumer (D) in a meeting with pro-reform groups in July 2013 to discuss how to help move an immigration bill through the House.[21] Groups in the meeting included Mark Zuckerberg's, tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Intel; the faith group Sojourners and Republicans for Immigration Reform.[21] Noticeably absent was Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped the Senate pass the reform bill on June 27 by a vote of 68 to 32.[21][22][23]

Graham suggested in the meeting that groups should get people to target Republicans at town hall meetings, while Schumer said pastors might use their sermons to highlight the importance of immigration reform.[21] McCain suggested a strategic option of introducing the bill piecemeal in order to increase the likelihood of building momentum for ultimate passage.[24]

"In an effort to grow support in the House for immigration reform, members of the Gang of Eight met with supporters of immigration reform and discussed how to spread the word, both why this is good for members' districts and the country," said Matt House, a spokesman for Schumer.[21]

The meeting triggered some backlash, specifically because of the lawmakers’ strategy of listing more than 100 House Republicans who could be persuaded to vote for immigration reform.[25] One lobbyist who participated in the meeting said the session was not very welcomed by the business community.[25]

The subsequent meeting with the same group had been scheduled and called off. An aide to a Gang of Eight senator said the session was cancelled because of “scheduling concerns.” “The dialogue between the members of the Gang of Eight and the groups will still continue,” the aide said.[25]

The four Democratic members of the Gang of Eight announced their own meeting with prominent labor groups and pro-reform immigration organizations on July 24, 2013 to coordinate efforts heading into the August recess.[25] Among the groups participating in the meeting were America’s Voice, the AFL-CIO and the National Immigration Law Center.[25][26]

House counterpart breaks apart

At the end of September 2013 reports circulated that the House version of the Gang of Eight was breaking apart.[27] The group started with eight members, but was reduced to seven in June, when Raul Labrador (R-ID) left the group.[27] On September 20, 2013, two of the three remaining Republicans in the group, John Carter and Sam Johnson of Texas, announced their departure, citing “a lack of faith in President Obama to enforce current and new laws necessary to solve the immigration problem.”[27]

“After years of hard work and countless meetings, we have reached a tipping point and can no longer continue working on a broad approach to immigration,” the congressmen said in a joint statement. “We want to be clear. The problem is politics. Instead of doing what’s right for America, President Obama time and again has unilaterally disregarded the U.S. Constitution, the letter of the law and bypassed the Congress — the body most representative of the people — in order to advance his political agenda. We will not tolerate it.”[27]

“If past actions are the best indicators of future behavior; we know that any measure depending on the president’s enforcement will not be faithfully executed,” they said. ”It would be gravely irresponsible to further empower this administration by granting them additional authority or discretion with a new immigration system. The bottom line is — the American people do not trust the President to enforce laws, and we don’t either.”[27]

Carter and Johnson pledged to continue working with their Republican colleagues in the House in search of ”a way to fix this problem that will instill the authentic accountability that has been missing in immigration for the past 25 years.” Immigration reform must start “with a genuinely secure border, full implementation of E-verify, effective enforcement of current and future laws, and a commitment that any proposal contributes to a healthy economy,” they said.[27]

Facebook founder becomes involved in debate

Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg became publicly involved in the immigration debate has captivated Washington by joining forces with pro-immigration advocates outside of the tech industry.[28][29][30][31][32]

In San Francisco on August 5, 2013, Zuckerberg gave introductory remarks at the premiere of “Documented,” a documentary film directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas that looks at the stories of young immigrants, known as "Dreamers," who came to the United States illegally as children with their parents.[28], the political advocacy group that Zuckerberg co-founded and helped finance with his former Harvard roommate Joe Green, is co-hosting the event with Vargas’s immigrant rights group Define American.[28]

The premiere was expected to draw a who’s who crowd of top Silicon Valley tech stars, as well as undocumented workers and Dreamers. The diverse audience is intended to show a united push for immigration reform.[28]

The premiere was viewed as a launch pad for the tech industry in the push to overhaul the country’s immigration rules.

“We’re thrilled that he’s engaged,” said Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a tech trade association that counts Facebook as a member. “I’m really hoping that the opportunity is used by Mark and others to galvanize more of our tech community brethren to deeply engage immediately on immigration reform legislation during this recess in Congress.”

The tech industry has spent years pushing Congress to raise the cap for high-skilled work visas and make more green cards available for foreign graduates with advanced technical degrees from American universities. With the rare momentum behind immigration reform this year, tech lobbyists have expanded their legislative push beyond the high-skilled piece of the debate to advocate for a comprehensive solution to the country’s broken immigration system.[28], which counts top Silicon Valley tech leaders as donors, sparked criticism from liberal groups after it aired a set of controversial political television ads featuring Marco Rubio, Mark Begich and Lindsey Graham.[28]

While comprehensive immigration reform is the first national policy issue that Zuckerberg has personally engaged in, he has previously been active in New Jersey politics.

Donations to Gang of Eight members

Zuckerberg and his wife have each donated $5,000 to Facebook’s PAC, which has passed out more than $100,000 in campaign cash to members of Congress in 2013, including those who have played a role in the push for immigration reform.[28] Michael Bennet, a member of the Senate Gang of Eight, picked up $10,000 from the social network’s PAC, which gave $5,000 each to his campaign committee and leadership PAC.[28]

Two other Gang of Eight members, Charles Schumer and Marco Rubio also received $5,000 each from Facebook’s PAC. It also wrote checks to members that will play key roles in the upcoming immigration fight in the House, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.[28]

Notable support for the immigration reform bill

In addition to numerous Democratic senators, notable Republicans and Republican groups have announced their support for the bill.
They include[33]:

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 ABC News "Who Are the Gang Of 8 in Senate Immigration Debate?" Accessed May 7, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Washington Post "Gang of Eight immigration plan: Reality-based legislating" Accessed May 7, 2013
  3. The Hill "Schumer introduces comprehensive immigration reform bill" Accessed August 5, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Congressional Research Service "Gang of Four" Accessed May 21, 2013
  5. The New York Times "Report Questions Legality of Briefings on Surveillance" January 19, 2006
  6. 6.0 6.1 Washington Post "Rubio currently opposes own immigration bill" Accessed June 5, 2013
  7. 7.0 7.1 Politico "Rubio: Most of immigration bill in 'perfect shape'" Accessed June 17, 2013
  8. Fox News, "House votes to resume deporting young DREAM Act immigrants," Accessed June 10, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 Politico "CBO score brings good news for Gang of Eight" Accessed June 19, 2013
  10. Politico "Roll Call Vote: Cornyn Amendment" Accessed June 20, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Politico "Senate kills John Cornyn border security amendment" Accessed June 20, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 NY Times "Immigration Overhaul Passes in Senate" Accessed June 27, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 CNN "Senate passes sweeping immigration bill" Accessed June 27, 2013
  14. Politico "Harry Reid needles John Boehner over Hastert rule" Accessed July 8, 2013
  15. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named hastert
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Politico "7 GOPers who need immigration vote" Accessed July 9, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 Politico "Behind closed doors, Boehner pushes immigration action" Accessed July 10, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Yahoo "Liberal, conservative groups push for immigration bill in the House" Accessed July 10, 2013
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Politico "Nancy Pelosi: House should pass its own immigration bill" Accessed July 10, 2013
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Politico "Eric Cantor, Bob Goodlatte eye bill for undocumented children" Accessed July 12, 2013
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 NewsMax "Gang of Eight Targets House Republicans on Immigration" Accessed August 5, 2013
  22. Huffington Post "The House Of Representatives Members Most Likely To Back Immigration Reform" Accessed August 5, 2013
  23. Huffington Post "Gang Of Eight Targets 121 House Republicans On Immigration Reform" Accessed August 5, 2013
  24. Politico "Senate immigration gang targets House Republicans" Accessed August 5, 2013
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 25.4 Politico "Gang of Eight Democrats huddle with labor groups" Accessed July 24, 2013
  26. Washington Post "Democratic members of ‘Gang of Eight’ to meet with House Democrats Tuesday" Accessed August 5, 2013
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 National Review, "House Immigration ‘Gang’ Falls Apart," accessed September 25, 2013
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 28.3 28.4 28.5 28.6 28.7 28.8 The Hill "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg now building a political network" Accessed August 7, 2013
  29. USA Today "Facebook CEO calls for immigration reform" Accessed August 7, 2013
  30. "Facebook's Zuckerberg backs US immigration reform" Accessed August 7, 2013
  31. Mercury News "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks out on immigration reform" Accessed August 7, 2013
  32. Boston Globe "Facebook CEO publicly calls for immigration reform" Accessed August 7, 2013
  33. The Washington Post, "Ominous signs of progress for immigration bill," Accessed June 20, 2013
  34. Politico "Orrin Hatch op-ed backs Senate immigration plan" Accessed June 25, 2013