THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Bush called yesterday for “political courage” to pass the immigration bill that senators will take up once again this week, nearly three weeks after it foundered and appeared dead.
“We have an obligation to solve problems that have been piling up for decades. The status quo is unacceptable,” the president said in his weekly radio address. “We must summon the political courage to move forward with a comprehensive reform bill.”
Five of the past nine radio addresses have been on immigration — a staggering percentage that underscores just how much effort the White House is putting into trying to win a legislative victory and regain some momentum.
Mr. Bush made phone calls to senators last week, though the White House would not say whom he called, and two Cabinet secretaries have spent much of the past month lobbying for the bill through interviews with the press.
One of them, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, is scheduled to participate in an online chat tomorrow on the White House Web site (www.whitehouse.gov) to make another pitch.
On Tuesday, the day the Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to revive the bill, Mr. Bush plans to drop by during a briefing on immigration at the White House complex.
However, the president is in an odd position. Much of the debate in Congress is about his willingness and ability to enforce the laws at the border and against employers, but it’s not clear how much affect the president can have on how senators vote.
The bill’s backers need to garner the support of 60 senators to bring the bill back to the floor. Opponents have identified 32 senators they say are set to block the bill and another who is unlikely to vote, giving them 33 votes. They have a list of another 12 senators they say are on the fence.
The president tried to tie both Republican and Democratic leaders to the bill’s fate, thanking both “for their bipartisan effort to fix our immigration system.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, agreed to revive the bill by limiting the number of amendments — a move Republicans criticized.
Both Mr. Reid and Mr. McConnell are expected to vote to advance the bill, but Mr. Reid said its success depends on the president. He has told Mr. Bush to deliver 20 votes if he wants the bill to succeed.
“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, referring to the vote earlier this month when all but seven Republicans voted to block the bill.
If the first test-vote passes Tuesday, it will open up a new process of amendments and probably another 60-vote test along the way.
That second vote could be still more difficult, because some senators are committed to reviving the bill and having a debate, but they said they still may vote to block the bill through filibuster in the end if their amendments don’t pass.