- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2010

As President Obama and Senate Democrats push to pass an immigration bill this year, one key ingredient is still conspicuously missing: a second Republican to co-sponsor the legislation.

Most Republicans considered likeliest to join Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, in writing a bill either have taken a pass or are still on the fence. Key figures say the country does not have the kind of consensus needed to tackle the issue.

“It just doesn’t exist anymore,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who in 2007 took the lead on writing a bill with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, only to see it fail when a bipartisan majority of senators joined a filibuster against it.

Mr. Schumer and Mr. Graham are guardedly pressing ahead with a bill that would legalize illegal immigrants, establish a new system for allowing in foreign workers, and tighten controls on employment, including requiring the use of biometric identification Social Security cards.

Mr. Schumer sees a path for a bill, Mr. Graham sounds uncertain, and both of them are looking to Mr. Obama to help.

“I urge the president to write a bill and see if he can get another Republican, see if he can convince the 16 Democrats who voted no the last time,” Mr. Graham said on a “Meet the Press” appearance with Mr. Schumer late last month. “Let him do some heavy lifting here on immigration.”

To that comment, Mr. Schumer responded: “He will.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has indicated that he wants the Senate to act on the immigration issue this year. Although solid bipartisan sponsorship is not required, it has been the goal for every other immigration bill.

Mr. Schumer said that if backers can find a second Republican, the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

“If we can get that second Republican, we have business and labor ready to sign on, we have all the religious community, not just the liberals but the evangelicals, we even have Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly saying positive things about our proposal,” he said.

Sen. Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who supported immigration bills in 2006 and 2007, was an early focus for Democrats. He said Mr. Schumer approached him last year to ask him if he was interested in joining forces, but Mr. Lugar declined.

“I indicated I was not prepared to co-sponsor or work with him on that,” Mr. Lugar said.

Former Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, would have been an obvious choice. As a Cuban immigrant, he was outspoken in calling on his party to embrace legalization and was a key author of the 2006 bill.

But Mr. Martinez retired last year and now Democrats are looking to Sen. George Lemieux, a Republican tapped by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the seat, for support. Mr. Lemieux said he’s not ruling out a role in the new effort.

“We all have to be open. It’s a problem, a multifaceted problem, and that’s why we are here: to solve problems,” he said.

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