- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, frustrated by the sluggish debate over immigration reform at the committee level, plans to introduce a bill that deals solely with border security as early as today.

Mr. Frist’s bill, according to aides on both sides of the aisle, does not include a guest worker provision or a process for handling the 12 million illegal aliens already in the U.S., divisive topics that have stalled immigration legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill would beef up security along the U.S.-Mexico border, provide funding for thousands more Border Patrol agents and build small sections of fencing in key traffic areas.

The Tennessee Republican, who is widely believed to be seeking the Republican nomination for president, had promised conservatives that he would bring up an enforcement-only bill and begin debate on the topic on the Senate floor by March 27.

Republican aides say the move by Mr. Frist is not meant to trump similar legislation offered by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, but rather as an “insurance policy” to ensure the topic is addressed.

Mr. Frist’s bill, according to aides, would simply take Mr. Specter’s proposal and strip out the guest worker plan and provisions dealing with illegal aliens already in the U.S.

Mr. Specter’s legislation has stalled in committee over his proposal to make illegal entry into the U.S. a felony as well as other issues. His bill would allow employed illegal aliens to remain in the United States indefinitely, although it would require them to return home before applying for permanent citizenship.

Mr. Frist will use the rarely employed “Rule 14,” which permits him to introduce a bill and bypass the committee process so that it goes directly to the Senate calendar. After winding through several days of parliamentary procedures, Mr. Frist may call that bill to the floor for debate.

During this morning’s Judiciary Committee meeting, Mr. Specter hinted that Mr. Frist would move ahead on his own if the committee didn’t arrive at some consensus. The prospect worried both Democrats and Republicans.

“I think it would be March madness to rush this,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican.

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