House GOP gives ‘amnesty’ alternative

THE WASHINGTON TIMES Key House Republicans yesterday said they would stick with current immigration laws rather than adopt the Senate’s reform bill, taking a poke at the key selling point of President Bush and Senate Republicans to try to earn conservatives’ support.

“Ideally, you would have the current law plus the legislation we are proposing today, but what we want to do is stop the Senate amnesty bill in its tracks right now,” said Rep. Peter T. King, New York Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee.

He and fellow Republicans — including Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee — introduced a bill enhancing existing security and a resolution calling on Mr. Bush to enforce a dozen laws already on the books.

Mr. Bush and some Senate Republicans have argued that the current situation is de facto amnesty for illegal aliens because the laws are too difficult to enforce. They say the Senate bill — which gives legalized status to most illegal aliens, creates a new worker program and requires stricter employer checks — is needed to gain control.

The Senate bill is being revived this week under an agreement by Democratic and Republican leaders.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who sets the floor schedule, warned the six senators who are running for president that they will have to leave the campaign trail and return to the chamber during the next two weeks to help pass immigration reform, as well as the pending energy bill.

“We have people running for president on both sides of the aisle, and they should plan on being here because there’s some votes that their votes could make the difference,” Mr. Reid said.

The immigration reform bill foundered on the Senate floor two weeks ago, and Mr. Reid is using extraordinary tactics to revive it and force a final vote by the end of next week.

In a move to overcome some procedural hurdles from opponents, Democrats this week introduced a bill that compiles all of the floor action so far into the new measure and adds $4.4 billion in mandatory border-security spending to fund projects long on the books but never funded. Democrats also are considering a “clay pigeon” approach to force a limit on which amendments will be allowed to be debated.

Named after the target in skeet shooting, the clay pigeon approach splits a broad amendment into smaller parts, each of which is put to a vote. In this case, it applies to the list of nearly two dozen amendments, evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans.

That would circumvent an open debate favored by many conservative Republicans.

“The White House and the small group that put [the bill] together still want to move it without an open discussion,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican.

Mr. Sessions said the Senate’s Republican leaders, by agreeing to the deal with Mr. Reid, risk leaving the impression that they are cutting out conservatives.

Asked about that yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, cut off the question, saying he would handle such complaints “down the road.”

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