Senate Democrats refused to allow consideration of an amendment yesterday that would bar illegal aliens convicted of felonies from obtaining U.S. citizenship.
Democrats said the amendment would “gut” the immigration bill under consideration in the Senate and refused to allow a vote on it.
“It hurts the bill,” said Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “It hurts the very foundation and what I believe is the spirit” of the legislation.
Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and John Cornyn of Texas restated the purpose of their amendment and appeared incredulous that anyone would object to it.
“I do not have to explain in any more detail than what I have as why I don’t want to move forward,” Mr. Reid said. “I don’t agree with the amendment. I don’t think it’s going to benefit this legislation that is pending before the Senate and I’m going to do what I can to prevent a vote on it.”
Later, Mr. Reid added, “We’re not going to allow amendments like Kyl-Cornyn to take out what we believe is the goodness of this bill.”
The entire bill is “in effect being blocked by the other side,” said Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican.
After debate over the bill ground to a halt last night, Democrats filed a “cloture motion” that could set up a final vote before the end of the week on an immigration bill that many conservatives view as “amnesty.” The bill allows illegal aliens to pay a $2,000 fine and remain working in the U.S. while applying for citizenship.
The Kyl-Cornyn amendment would have barred from U.S. citizenship any illegal alien who has been convicted of a felony, three misdemeanors or refused a court order to leave the country.
Democrats said the amendment is not necessary because crimes of “moral turpitude” such as rape and murder already prevent an illegal from obtaining U.S. citizenship, as would violations of drug laws.
Mr. Kyl came to the floor and listed the crimes he said would not be included without his amendment, such as burglary, assault and battery, possession of an unregistered, sawed-off shotgun, kidnapping and alien smuggling.