The Senate bill is the result of a “grand bargain” struck by a small bipartisan group of senators and the Bush administration. It ties together a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, a guest-worker program for future workers, and a redesign of the immigration system to favor those with needed skills or education.
The bargain has taken several blows in earlier votes: The guest-worker program was cut in half and senators voted to end it after five years, and an amendment would make it easier to deport illegal aliens who apply but are denied a place in the path to citizenship.
But those in the grand bargain think they can coax the bill through and send it on to the House, where its prospects are less certain.
In a Tuesday meeting with Senate Republicans, Mr. Bush was told that he needed to do more to prove he is serious about the border. Many Republicans encouraged Mr. Bush to send Congress an emergency spending bill to pay for border security — an idea championed by Georgia Republican Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss, who wrote Mr. Bush a letter asking for the spending bill.
Yesterday, they said this new spending idea falls short because it is not a spending bill.
“I tried to be very respectfully specific in the letter that I signed with Senator Chambliss,” Mr. Isakson said. “The credibility question which we all have on this issue is significant enough that it merits that type of commitment.”
Other Republicans said they saw Mr. Bush’s effort as desperate.
“Bush is clearly trying to buy some border security votes from the Republican senators. I think they’ve bought all the votes from the Democrats and this is the only place he can go,” said Rep. Steve King, Iowa Republican. “He still thinks it’s about whether you can make enough promises to sell the bill. What it’s really about is the empty promises in the past.”
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