- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2007

The on-again-off-again Senate immigration bill has failed, and this time the blow is probably fatal.

The Lazarus bill collapsed exactly three weeks ago, was resurrected Tuesday and foundered once again this morning as conservative Republicans and a group of Democrats rallied to block it on a procedural vote.

Senators voted 53-46 to block the bill, leaving it 14 shy of the 60 votes needed to move forward to a final up-or-down vote, and its supporters said it was done.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said it could come back again later this year, but for now it’s a catastrophic defeat for President Bush.


He had invested a tremendous amount of political capital into immigration. Despite teaming with Democrats and bashing some of his own staunchest supporters, deploying two cabinet secretaries and much of his top policy hierarchy nearly full-time — and making calls himself — he was unable to secure victory, and is now left without a major domestic accomplishment for his second term.

But concerns over the massive bill’s grant of citizenship rights to illegal aliens, fears that a new guest-worker program would harm U.S. workers and a lack of confidence in the Bush administration’s commitment to enforcing stricter laws piled up.

“This immigration bill has become a war between the American people and their government,” said Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican. “This vote today is really not about immigration, it’s about whether we’re going to listen to the American people.”

They pointed to an evaluation by the Congressional Budget Office that said the bill would only reduce future illegal immigration by about 25 percent, and said the new guest-worker program would actually lead to hundreds of thousands of new illegal aliens created by workers overstaying their visas.

The bill’s backers had pleaded with senators to “do something,” arguing that even a bad bill was going to be better than the “de facto amnesty” that exists because the government cannot or will not enforce the laws.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, told senators to ignore the outraged phone calls flooding their offices, and told them part of the problem is “they don’t understand” many of the parts of the bill.

And Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said opponents should forget about waiting for a bill that will make illegal aliens go home.

“Amnesty like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, but these 12 million are going to be here whether we legislate or not,” Mr. Specter said.

But conservative Republicans and some Democrats rejected that, arguing they should not be forced to accept an amnesty in exchange for the Bush administration agreeing to enforce laws already on the books.