Senate OKs amnesty for deportees

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“If we pass this, it kills the bill,” he said, complaining that Democrats who run the chamber allowed a second vote on the amendment.

If Republicans filibuster the bill — and they said yesterday they have the votes to do it — Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has said he will drop the bill from the schedule and doubted he would bring it up again this year.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said he would withdraw the filibuster threat if Democrats would allow votes on a number of Republican amendments.

But Democrats are holding firm, having blocked Republicans from offering at least six different amendments yesterday, and another four Tuesday.

“We know what the game is. It’s not a free and open debate,” Mr. Sessions said after Democrats blocked an amendment by Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican, that would have affected aliens convicted of drunken driving.

Mr. Reid said he has already relented in adding an extra week’s worth of work on the bill. He compared the floor situation to the mess created by the cat in the Dr. Seuss classic “The Cat in the Hat.”

Still, Mr. Reid said he sees reasons for hope.

“If you go back and read Dr. Seuss, the cat manages to clean up the mess,” the Nevada Democrat said.

Republicans said they would judge the process by how closely it matched last year’s debate, which saw 42 total votes — 33 by roll call and nine by voice vote. By the end of last night, the Senate was expected to have completed 27 roll-call votes and 12 voice votes, for a total of 39 votes.

Among yesterday’s votes, the Senate defeated an effort to require illegal aliens who get legal status to maintain a minimum level of health insurance and also beat an amendment that would have allowed guest workers to work the maximum six years without ever having to return home, as the bill requires.

During the action some senators cast votes that may come back to haunt them.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who ran in last year’s election on getting tough on illegal immigration, voted to preserve citizenship rights for alien absconders. So did Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, who during last year’s debate co-sponsored the same amendment with Mr. Cornyn.

Mr. Kyl is the key senator in the “grand bargain” underlying the immigration bill, and he could be overheard by spectators in the gallery marveling to other senators at the sacrifices he’s made to keep his compromise alive: “I voted against my best friend — an amendment we wrote together.”

On the health care vote, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona both went to check with Mr. Kennedy before casting their votes to match his. Soon after, Mr. Kyl also switched his vote to match Mr. Kennedy‘s.

Republicans did score some victories late yesterday, passing Mr. Sessions‘ amendment to deny the Earned Income Tax Credit to illegal aliens who gain legal status under the bill. They would gain access once they obtained green cards, which would be probably be at least a decade away.

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