- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that the House will insist that the final emergency Iraq spending bill also include the bill the House passed last month to crack down on abuses of the asylum system and illegal immigrants’ ability to use driver’s licenses.

“This is a bill that pays for security for this country, and keeping Americans safe. That part is a vital part in securing our borders, and it fits within the scope of this bill,” Mr. DeLay said. “You can’t take pieces, and ignore things that will keep America safe. Certainly, we want to continue to fight the war on terror. Part of that is foreign aid and the diplomacy part, and also part of it is protecting America here at home.”

The House last month passed a bill, sponsored by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, that says any state identification, including driver’s licenses, that can be used for federal purposes like boarding an aircraft must require that the holder be in the country legally. It would not require the dozen states that now allow illegal aliens to obtain licenses to change, but would be a strong incentive to do so.

The bill, which passed 261-161, also allows for filling in of a 4-mile gap in the border fence near San Diego and limits asylum claims.

House Republican leaders, in order to force the Senate to address the bill, will attach it to the $81.3 billion emergency-spending measure for Iraq that the House is expected to pass next week.

Senators fought to remove the Sensenbrenner provisions from an earlier bill, the intelligence-overhaul measure that passed Congress in December. But now they will have to address the issues again, either during their floor debate on the spending bill or during the House-Senate conference to hammer out a final agreement on the spending bill.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said “in all likelihood” the Senate will address Mr. Sensenbrenner’s bill as part of the Iraq spending bill.

“We’ll be addressing all of that,” Mr. Frist said.

But many senators have said they prefer to wait and debate the Sensenbrenner bill later, rather than as part of the Iraq bill, since they don’t want the emergency war spending to get bogged down in a protracted immigration debate.

Those senators said the rules of the Senate are so open that a debate on the Sensenbrenner provisions would turn into a broader debate on guest-worker programs and general U.S. immigration policy ” something key senators like Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican and the new chairman of the Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, want to put off until after hearings can be held.

Other key Republicans are still on the fence about whether the provisions should be attached.

“I’ve heard about it. I haven’t made a decision yet,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican.

President Bush supported the bill when it passed the House, but has also called for a clean Iraq spending bill that doesn’t have add-ons for matters other than the war on terror.

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