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Structurally Damaged, The Immigration Bill Faces a Series of Tests

June 7, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The chances of U.S. immigration policy being reformed by the 110th Congress are suddenly not looking good at all. Two recent votes in the Senate give a strong indication that the current immigration bill will be heading nowhere but to the shelf.

Dorgan Poison-Pill Approved

As he made clear here, Senator Byron Dorgan (D, ND) — pictured at right — doesn’t like anything about this immigration bill. Late last night, he drew on both Democratic anti-guestworker-program and bipartisan kill-the-bill-anyway-possible sentiments to approve his amendment that attacks one of the bill’s two essential pillars.

Dorgan’s amendment calls for the guestworker program to be terminated after a period of five years. It was barely approved late last night by a vote of 49-48.

The guestworker program was, arguably, the key provision which earned Republican support for the bill. It was a counterweight to the Democrat-favored path to citizenship program. These two provisions held the bill together, maintaining a somewhat balanced base of support. However, many, from both sides of the aisles, opposed the bill because they saw the concessions that their party had to make as irreconcilably egregious. For example, many liberal Democrats see the guestworker program as running completely counter to their progressive ideals.

Dorgan got 37 Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders (VT) to vote for his amendment to sunset the guestworker program. He also got 11 Republicans to vote for it. Most of the Republicans and many of the Democrats who voted for the amendment did so because they knew that by taking out the guestworker program, the bill would be as good as dead. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) voted for the amendment, and this interaction, observed by The Crypt, shows that he was well aware of what he was doing:

>Democrats convened a caucus meeting this morning to discuss strategy. As Reid emerged from the meeting, the majority leader tapped Dorgan on the back, smiled and said, “excellent.”
>When asked what Reid was referring to, Dorgan shrugged.

Reid’s Cloture Motion Rejected

A cloture motion is used to set a time limit for debate of a matter and to schedule a final vote. Majority Leader Reid filed cloture on the bill on Tuesday and the motion was voted on this morning. It would have called for a final vote on the bill to be held on Monday.

The motion was rejected with 34 voting in favor — little more than half of the sixty votes which were required for the motion to be approved.

This cloture vote was a good test of the bill’s support. The 33 Senators who voted to invoke cloture essentially voted to preserve the bill and its chances of moving forward towards becoming the new U.S. immigration policy. Those that voted against cloture voted to allow more amending. And since during the drawn-out negotiating process a bipartisan group had already determined that it was the best possible compromise, more amending means throwing it out of balance.

Reid, who filed the cloture motion, ended up voting against it, making it even more clear that it has lost — or failed to ever gain — the support of crucial senators. Another cloture vote is scheduled for this evening, and if it also fails, Majority Leader Reid is likely to shelve the bill:

>If cloture is denied then, “the bill is done,” Reid told reporters. “What else can I do?”

If the Senate fails to pass an immigration bill, the House of Representatives will not even bother to try and pass their own and immigration reform will be indefinitely put on hold. What do you think – are you happy to see this bill falling apart?

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