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Waiting for the Senate

May 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

<img src= “http://farm1.static.flickr.com/9/12217292_bf2178314d.jpg”align="right"width="280"height="200">With votes on Iraq done with in the House of Representatives for now, all eyes turn to the Senate, which is not quite ready for all the attention.

Iraq and immigration reform, the two legislative battles that are most likely to be remembered of the 110th Congress, are currently held up, behind the scenes, in the Senate’s hands. The House is now waiting for the Senate to act on both so that the necessary next steps can be taken and Congress as a whole can move forward. And yet, no plan, for either matter, has taken shape.

Senate on Iraq

Since Democrats enjoy only a one-member majority in the Senate, legislation can not be strong-armed through like it can in the House. Everything takes longer in the Senate, and that is why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) is trying to just skip over passing an Iraq plan and just get something to conference as soon as possible. In the conference, house and senate negotiators will come to an agreement on a single plan for Iraq and then send their agreed-upon plan back to the separate chambers for votes. Since this vote will inevitably be a difficult battle, he is hoping to bring something non-controversial to the floor now.

The latest from the Washington Post [links added]:

>Senate Democratic leaders remain deeply skeptical of the House’s short-term funding approach, but they have yet to divulge an approach of their own. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) asserted yesterday that “there is not a thing off the table” and cited “150 scenarios” currently making the rounds among lawmakers.
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>Reid faces two legislative hurdles. First, he must gain Republican support for a placeholder bill, so he can start negotiations with the House. Then he will have to strike a final agreement with Pelosi that can attract enough Senate GOP support to avert a filibuster.
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>Most of the Senate proposals include benchmarks, plus consequences if the Iraqi government falls short. Some senior Democrats want to revive the bill that was vetoed last week, but with a waiver option that would allow Bush to delay troop withdrawals. But it is not yet clear what Senate GOP leaders are prepared to accept — even as a placeholder — and those questions are not expected to be conclusively answered until early next week.

Senate on immigration Reform

Harry Reid has had comprehensive immigration reform legislation scheduled for debated on the Senate floor on May 14 for some time now. But so far, no such bill, with a chance at passing, has been introduced. So on May 3, Reid boldly threatened to bring back an immigration bill that the Senate approved last year as a starting point for this year’s debate if something else was not agreed on in time. This is the last thing senate Republicans want, since last year’s bill is much more permissive than what they could likely get out of Democrats this year.

But it is now Friday May 11 and the 14th is on Monday, and since ongoing negotiations have been unfruitful, Republicans are getting worried that Reid will make good on his threat:

>“We are united in our resolve to enact comprehensive immigration reform this year and will only support moving forward with legislation that is a product of the ongoing bipartisan discussions,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) wrote in a letter sent to Reid yesterday.

Jonathan Singer of MyDD points out the irony:

>The cynicism and opportunism of these Republican Senators — chief among them McCain, Martinez and Brownback — is quite remarkable even if it were predictable. Each of the three aforementioned Senators, who are walking away from last year’s bill, not only voted for it when it came to the floor but were among the bill’s six co-sponsors.

The question is: does being willing "only [to] support moving forward with legislation that is a product of the ongoing bipartisan discussions” mean that they will try and block last year’s bill if Reid brings it to the floor? At least one Republican, Jim DeMint (R, SC) has made his intention to block last year’s bill clear. DeMint, at least, didn’t vote for it last year.

We will have to wait and see what happens. In the meantime we can ponder relevant questions such as, is Reid trying to kill immigration reform?

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