- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 9, 2006

President Bush yesterday blamed Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid for blocking compromise legislation to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, even though the president never endorsed the bill and many of his fellow Republicans openly opposed it.

While Democrats and Republicans were split throughout the debate, the president singled out the Senate’s minority leader as the cause for the failure of the bill, which would have offered eventual citizenship to an estimated 11 million illegal aliens.

“Unfortunately, this compromise is being blocked by the Senate Democratic leader, who has refused to allow senators to move forward and vote on amendments to this bill,” Mr. Bush said during his weekly radio address. “I call on the Senate minority leader to end his blocking tactics and allow the Senate to do its work and pass a fair, effective immigration-reform bill.”

Mr. Reid, of Nevada, fired back, saying it was Republicans — most notably Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist — not Democrats, who killed the bill.

“President Bush and Senator Frist are flat-out wrong about what happened to the immigration bill. Democrats are committed to comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform. That’s why we voted twice last week in favor of it,” Mr. Reid said. “It was President Bush and Republicans in Congress who lacked the backbone to stand up to the extreme right-wing of their party, filibustered reform twice in two days, and put partisan politics ahead of border security and immigration reform.”

Sen. Ken Salazar, Colorado Democrat, echoed the sentiment: “Sadly, President Bush and Republican leaders could not even get senators who supported and endorsed this bill to vote for it.”

Further work on the stalled negotiations now will have to wait at least two weeks, as Congress enjoys its Easter recess. Some on Capitol Hill think legislation to create a guest-worker program as proposed by Mr. Bush, as well as to build hundreds of miles of fence along the U.S. border with Mexico and add thousands of enforcement officers will not emerge again before the November elections.

But Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said: “We have an agreement. It’s not going away.” And Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pledged to have legislation ready for debate in the Senate when lawmakers return.

But Mr. Frist, of Tennessee, would not commit to bringing another immigration bill to the floor before the election. “I intend to,” is all he would say, but he added that it would depend on the schedule, already packed with other legislation.

While the Senate could not agree on how to move forward, the House already has passed a tough bill that calls for construction of border fences and defines all illegal aliens in the United States as felons. And while the issue is dead for now on Capitol Hill, hundreds of thousands of mostly Hispanic protesters plan huge rallies tomorrow in 10 cities to protest the House bill.

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