Is that "Taps" I hear for the immigration bill?
A fragile compromise that would legalize millions of unlawful immigrants risks coming unraveled after the Senate voted early Thursday to place a five-year limit on a program meant to provide U.S. employers with 200,000 temporary foreign workers annually.
The 49-48 vote came two weeks after the Senate, also by a one-vote margin, rejected the same amendment by Sen. Byron Dorgan. The North Dakota Democrat says immigrants take many jobs Americans could fill.
The reversal dismayed backers of the immigration bill, which is supported by President Bush but loathed by many conservatives. Business interests and their congressional allies were already angry that the temporary worker program had been cut in half from its original 400,000-person-a-year target.
A five-year sunset, they said, could knock the legs from the precarious bipartisan coalition aligned with the White House. The Dorgan amendment "is a tremendous problem, but it's correctable," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa. The coalition will try as early as Thursday to persuade at least one senator to help reverse the outcome yet again, he said.
Until the Dorgan vote was tallied, Specter and other leaders of the so-called "grand bargain" on immigration had enjoyed a fairly good day.
They had turned back a bid to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who could gain lawful status. They also defeated an effort to postpone the bill's shift to an emphasis on education and skills among visa applicants as opposed to family connections.
And they fended off an amendment, by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., that would have ended a new point system for those seeking permanent resident "green cards" after five years rather than 14 years.
All three amendments were seen as potentially fatal blows to the bill, which would tighten borders, hike penalties for those who hire illegals and give many of the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status.
The Senate voted 51-46 to reject a proposal by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, to bar criminals - including those ordered by judges to be deported - from gaining legal status. Democrats siphoned support from Cornyn's proposal by winning adoption, 66-32, of a rival version that would bar a more limited set of criminals, including certain gang members and sex offenders, from gaining legalization.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., alone among his party's presidential aspirants in backing the immigration measure, opposed Cornyn's bid and backed the Democratic alternative offered by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
"Crash and burn, huh, Mav?" Yeah, this bill is going down. Too many people have had kittens over this, and will continue to do so until it's either dead, or the politicians pull their heads out of their rectums. Cornyn is among only a couple doing his best to put common sense into this bill. Unfortunately, he keeps getting shot down.
The fact that there are people in the House trying to find a way to kill this, and there are those in the Senate that are a litle more reluctant to move this forward speaks volumes to the ability of the American electorate to convey a simple message to their legislature: This bill stinks and we on't want it. It has come through so loud and clear that President Bush was "shocked" to learn he was losing his base, and quickly tried yesterday to repair that damage.He can be surprised, but that betrays the disconnect between him and America, and that's a rift that's unlikely to heal soon.
This "jam down" wasn't the right way to go. Having clandestine, closed-door meetings without any public scrutiny when the bill was constructed was idiotic. When people started reading it, we knew the lawmakers had lost their marbles. And, of course, we're patted on the head and told that the security provisions will be in place first, they're even more insane to think the country will believe them. We've ben promised these security measures since 1986, and we've yet to see any real progress. Mitt Romney bropught this up in the debate Tuesday night. We wouldn't be in this position if we had just followed the laws to begin with.
Now Congress is trying to overwork the plumbing. The more you do that, the easier it is to stop up the pipes. When a bill as complex as this one is passed, lawyers will be working overtime to locate every little loophole in it. Hell, Marcie and I read over all 380 opages the first weekend it was out, and we located a good five or six loopholes that could seriously undermine our security, but also the effectiveness of the bill itself.
We only need to keep up the pressure on Congress. Keep calling, keep e-mailing. If this were a bill that addressed security first, and Congress was being serious about it, then we'd be a lot happier than lumping security and regularization together, and having the Senate only be willing to deal with the latter side of the bill, rather than the former and more important side.