Like a serial bloodletter in a teen slasher movie, the immigration bill, pronounced dead last week by House Republicans, has risen from the grave and is once again stalking the halls of Congress.
This version appears to be more like Ted Bundy than Michael Meyers. Instead of a bloody hatchet, amnesty supporters are going to try getting “comprehensive” immigration reform by smiling and being agreeable with the House – up to a point.
Key Senators have actually agreed that enforcement should be the #1 priority in any immigration bill, at least for the present:
Key backers of the Senate immigration bill said yesterday they are willing to consider a compromise that would delay the guest-worker program and “amnesty” portions until the borders have been secured.
The proposal was floated by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter in an interview Monday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
“I think it’s worth discussing,” said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. “Many of us have said we could work on border enforcement and, at the same time, work on other aspects that would take more time.”
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, said a delay will occur anyway because it will take a few years to set up the guest-worker program and the structure to process millions of illegal aliens onto a pathway to citizenship.
“We’ve always understood that,” he said, adding that the final bill must be “comprehensive” and include all provisions.
“That’s the key,” he said, after he, Mr. McCain and others hosted a broad coalition of outside groups demanding a comprehensive bill
Will the House play the part of the stupid teenager who walks into the dark room and whispers, “Who’s there?” right before being chopped into little pieces?
Reaction at the other end of the Capitol was more muted, with at least one key House leader continuing yesterday to point out flaws in the Senate bill.
The House and Senate approved very different immigration bills, with the House focusing on building 700 miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, boosting enforcement and requiring employers to verify that their workers are here legally. The Senate bill boosts enforcement, too, but also creates a program for future immigrant workers and a path to citizenship for many current illegal aliens.
Putting off amnesty in order to placate the enforcement crowd in the House just won’t cut it. Unfortunately, there may be enough Republicans willing to take such a deal if the White House starts turning the screws on lawmakers in tough re-election fights.
It’s no secret not too many Republicans want President Bush to appear with them on the same campaign platform in the run-up to the election. But that doesn’t take into account the fact that the President has his hand on the money spigot for the Republican party, able to turn the juice on or off and reward his friends while punishing those who may not toe the line on immigration. And the party at the moment is flush with cash and will be able to pour money into districts at the President’s discretion.
Clearly, Bush can’t be too aggressive in denying cash to Republicans who won’t back him on immigration, given the narrow Republican majority in the House he must protect. But to believe he won’t or can’t use his power as party leader in this way would be a dangerous gamble for any Republican to undertake. Hence, immigration has become the bill that won’t be killed.
House Republicans are starting to squirm which is not a good sign. Mike Pence of Indiana has endorsed a comprehensive immigration solution that we could perhaps refer to as “Amnesty Lite:”
Rep. Mike Pence, Indiana Republican, said it’s a “very big deal” that Mr. Specter is willing to put border security first in the final bill. He also said he has a bill that may bridge the “amnesty” divide between the two chambers because he thinks many House Republicans could accept a guest-worker program that requires illegal aliens to return to their home country before they can apply for it.
He has a proposal that would set up a privately run system to do this, and he thinks this “no-amnesty guest-worker” program could work.
“I think the majority of House conservatives would be open to a no-amnesty guest-worker program,” he said.
His bill also would set up a time frame, dedicating two years exclusively to border security before progressing to the rest of the bill.
If that “no amnesty guest worker program” sounds familiar, it should. That’s pretty much what we have now.
Can House Republicans resist pressure from the Senate and the President to come to terms on “comprehensive” immigration reform? Hopefully, this is will be one sequel where the bloodthirsty maniac really, really dies.