Thompson soft on illegals in Senate votes

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Since then, the verification system has proved to be successful and has not led to a national ID, and Mr. Thompson’s immigration plans would actually expand the system, which the Bush administration recently renamed E-Verify and announced its own plans to bolster.

The campaign adviser also said Mr. Thompson had several votes proving that he is strong on immigration, including voting in the Judiciary Committee to reduce chain migration and voting to eliminate the diversity visa lottery.

Oftentimes, he was the lone senator trying to stop legislation even in the face of his own party, which controlled the Senate for more than six of Mr. Thompson’s eight years in office.

More than half of the senators who served during that time never ended up on the losing side of an all-against-one vote, but Mr. Thompson did it five times, losing two by 99-1, two by 98-1 and one by 96-1.

He tied with former Sen. Lauch Faircloth, North Carolina Republican, for the most times on the bottom of an otherwise-unanimous vote, but several of Mr. Faircloth’s hold-out votes came on President Clinton’s nominees, while all of Mr. Thompson’s solo stands came on bills and amendments.

Mr. Thompson’s voting record puts him in the company of well-known mavericks such as former Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold and West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd, all Democrats, and fellow presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican.

Of Mr. Thompson’s five solo votes, two were against exempting or limiting liability of teachers or other volunteers, while the other three came against “Sense of the Senate” measures on matters such as encouraging zero-tolerance anti-drug policies in schools.

“This reflects his strong convictions about federalism and that Congress shouldn’t be federalizing issues that ought to be a matter of state law,” Ms. Hanretty said. “It’s a fundamental principle with him, and it’s a theme I think we’re going to hear a lot about throughout the campaign.”

Mr. Thompson’s record does reveal a staunch defender of states’ rights, repeatedly voting against federal intrusions on issues large and small — unless that competed with his lawyerly instincts. He voted against an amendment that would have let states set their own standards for medical malpractice litigation.

His legal priorities even caused him to be one of three Republicans to support Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards in opposing liability limits for companies that took steps to combat the Y2K computer bug in the run-up to New Year’s Day in 2000.

Ms. Hanretty, though, said Mr. Thompson was actually trying to protect small businesses and consumers who may have bought computers certified as Y2K-compliant but who, under the law, would have had no recourse if the computers failed anyway.

“Sure, he may have been one of three Republicans, but he was one of three Republicans who cast a deliberate vote to protect small businesses and consumers,” Ms. Hanretty said.

“He was not a senator who voted party line. He was a senator who voted on conviction, who studied the issues, and was very deliberate in his vote, regardless of whose name was at the top of the bill,” she said. “I think that’s exactly the sort of president voters are looking for right now.”

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