The top Senate Republican negotiator on immigration said he has heard the complaints of conservative talk-radio show hosts and bloggers, and will try to change the immigration bill to accommodate them.
Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who wrote the bill with Democrats and the Bush administration, said he is making moves to stiffen immigration law enforcement when the Senate bill returns to the floor next week.
"All of the concerns from our constituents and some in the media have been listened to, and incorporated," said Mr. Kyl, who is drafting new provisions in an amendment he hopes to offer.
A vote to resurrect the bill, which collapsed two weeks ago when Democrats and Republicans demanded more time to pass amendments, is scheduled for Tuesday. It will require the support of 60 senators. As of yesterday, it was a close call, with opponents claiming momentum.
To rescue the bill, President Bush will need to find more support among Republicans than two weeks ago, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. In that last vote, 11 Democrats and one independent joined all but seven Republicans present in blocking the bill — leaving supporters 15 votes shy of the 60 needed.
"We believe this bill deserves more than 14 percent of the Republican vote. We can't do it all on our own," Mr. Reid said yesterday.
Mr. Bush is trying to oblige, making calls this week to senators urging them to support the bill. A White House spokesman declined to say who he has called or whether his list includes Democrats as well as Republicans.
The bill is a fragile compromise that combines a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens with a guest-worker program for future workers and a rewrite of future immigration rules to help those with needed skills or education.
If the compromise survives Tuesday's first test vote, the Senate will then move to vote on about two dozen amendments, divided between Republicans and Democrats, that could substantially alter the bill. Mr. Kyl's amendment to try and stiffen enforcement is meant to win new supporters.
Opposition comes mainly from Republicans and some Democrats who say the bill doesn't put enforcement first and is an amnesty that hurts U.S. workers.
But a group of Democrats charges the bill is too harsh on illegal aliens and future immigrants, and says the process has been stacked in favor of Republicans.
"It has become a vehicle to drive onerous Republican amendments through the process," said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat. "It's tilted far to the right, far to the right. And it has provided little to no chance for those of us trying to bring the bill closer to where it was last year, which is to the middle, that opportunity."
Conservative bloggers are taking a tally and pressuring Republicans to block the bill in Tuesday's vote.
National Review Online this week listed Republican senators who had not taken a position on blocking the bill, and soon several of those senators issued statements saying they will, in fact, vote to block it because they believe it is an amnesty and doesn't place border security first.
Mr. Kyl's comments yesterday underscore how important talk radio and bloggers have been in the debate — even though some other Republicans, such as Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, have complained about the influence of talk radio.
In talking with reporters, Mr. Kyl singled out radio host Hugh Hewitt and called him "a very smart lawyer ... who I really respect."
"He had several issues and I haven't had the ability to run all of them to ground, but we're trying to include some of his specific suggestions," Mr. Kyl said.
NumbersUSA, a grass-roots organization that opposes the bill, is running television ads in South Carolina attacking Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who the ad says "joined with Ted Kennedy in strong-arming senators to support amnesty." A similar ad is scheduled for Kentucky, tying Republican senator and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Mr. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat.
Meanwhile, the group is running an ad in Nevada attacking Mr. Reid, accusing him of siding with Mr. Bush "to support amnesty."
From the other side, the finger-pointing is already beginning in case the bill fails.
Immigration Law Daily, an e-mail publication from ILW.com, an immigration law publisher, said the blame will go to Georgia's two Republican senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, who initially seemed to support the bill but have backed off in recent weeks; Sen. Byron L. Dorgan, North Dakota Democrat, who fears American workers would be hurt by a guest-worker plan; Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, who the publication notes is a "former Ku Klux Klan member who is reliably opposed to any pro-immigrant legislation"; and the AFL-CIO, which ILW says could be making "a return to their long history of anti-immigrant behavior."