- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 21, 2006

The immigration debate in the Senate is descending swiftly into the silly. Certain senators have demonstrated that they have no idea what they’re asked to vote for, or why. They can only hope the public is similarly dumb.

Check out these recent votes: An amendment to secure the borders first and only then implement a guest-worker or amnesty program failed 55-40, with 18 Republicans voting to kill the amendment and only 7 Democrats voting for it. An amendment to deny guest workers permanent resident status failed 58-35, again with 18 Republicans voting to kill it and only 3 Democrats for it. Of the Republicans who voted to kill the security-first amendment, 4 voted to deny guest workers permanent status. Similarly, of the Democrats who voted for the security-first amendment, four voted to grant guest workers permanent status. Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat, at one point wanted to introduce an amendment to strip out the guest-worker program, but voted to defeat an amendment which would have taken out the amnesty provision.

Sen. John Ensign offered an amendment to deny illegal aliens Social Security benefits, and it failed by just 50-49, with 7 Republicans who had voted to grant guest workers permanent status voting for the Ensign amendment. We’re happy they did so, but the logic of those senators’ votes escapes us (as logic had escaped them). For the record, Sens. Sam Brownback, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, Mel Martinez, John McCain, Arlen Specter, Ted Stevens and George Voinovich voted to give illegals Social Security benefits.

It gets weirder. On Wednesday, an amendment to build a 370-mile fence on the southern border passed 83-16, with all but 15 Democrats voting for it. Sen. Dick Durbin, who voted against the fence, called it “a symbol for the right wing of American politics,” which was surely news to Sens. Barbara Boxer, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer, none of whom had previously been identified as members of Hillary’s famous “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

In a show of breathtaking demagoguery, Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, called an amendment to make English the official language “racist.” (He forgot to call it “bigoted” and “nativist,” the other labels of the unholy trinity of immigrationist scare words). Eleven of his fellow Democrats approved the “racist” amendment. Mr. Reid can carry many tunes, usually off-key. A decade ago, when he voted to grant Social Security benefits to illegals, he complained that “Our federal wallet is stretched to the limit by illegal aliens getting welfare, food stamps, medical care and other benefits without paying taxes.” The next year, he said: “We must reduce the annual admissions of legal immigrants to more moderate levels in order to provide for a better country.”

A sane observer might as well give up trying to make sense of what a master satirist once called “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Some deliberation. Some body.

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