Bush eyes Democrats for help on amnesty dispute
President Bush on Nov. 8 said he will team up with Democrats to pass an immigration bill with a guestworker program that his own party blocked this year, and his Republican opponents predicted a bloody intraparty fight but said they cannot stop such a bill from passing.
“We will fight it, we will lose. It will go to the Senate, it will pass. The president will sign it. And it will happen quickly because that’s one thing they know they can pass,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican and chairman of the House Immigration Reform Caucus, who had led the opposition to a guest-worker plan. “I am absolutely horrified by this prospect, but I have to face reality.”
Mr. Bush supported a bipartisan majority in the Senate this year that passed a broad immigration bill including a new worker program and citizenship rights for millions of illegal aliens. But House Republicans blocked those efforts, calling them an amnesty, and instead forced
through a bill to erect nearly 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.Mexico border.
Theelectionsremovedthatobstacle by turning control of the House over to Democrats.
On Nov. 8, in an afternoon press conference, the president said he shares Democrats’ vision on immigrationandwilltryagainforabroad bill.
“There’s an issue where I believe we can find some common ground with the Democrats,” he said.
AccordingtoReutersnewsagency, a spokesman for Mexican President VicenteFoxcheeredDemocrats’success, saying it improves chances for getting a bill done.
And Democrats said the issue’s time has come.
“WithalignmentnowinCongress andtheWhiteHouse,thisisaunique opportunity,” said Rep. Howard L. Berman, California Democrat, a seniormemberoftheHouseJudiciary Committeeandaleaderontheissue.
He said there are a number of House Republicans who thought theirenforcementapproachwasbad policy but good politics. He said that belief was shattered by the Nov. 7 elections with the loss of two Republicans in Arizona — Randy Graf, a candidateforaseatnearTucson,and Rep. J.D. Hayworth, an incumbent from Scottsdale — who both ran heavily on opposition to a guestworker program.
Other losses included Rep. John Hostettler, the Indiana Republican who was chairman of the immigration subcommittee, and Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who ran heavilyonbordersecurity,hopingthe issue could save him.
“Over the last two years, people whohavebeeninmypositiononimmigrationhavedonewell,andpeople who have been more extreme have donebadly,”saidRep.ChrisCannon, a Utah Republican who backs a guest-worker plan.
He said Republicans goofed by not passing a bill, because they will now be forced to accept Democratic legislation far closer to amnesty.
“If we’d done this as Republicans, wewouldn’tevenhavetheargument of pathway to citizenship,” he said.
Mr. Cannon said Democrats will now get credit for solving the problem,andsaidMr.Tancredowillbeleft with “a soapbox to pound the living daylights out of people who are scared of America changing.”
Therearestillsomebighurdlesto a bill passing.
While Mr. Bush and most Democrats agree that many illegal aliensshouldhavearegularlegalstatus,akeystickingpointiswhetherfuture workers will also have a chance atcitizenship.TheSenatebillallowed citizenship rights for those workers, but Mr. Bush has consistently rejected that.
Immigrationalsocouldgetbogged down in 2008 presidential politics.
Mr. Cannon said he worries Democratsaretryingtousetheissueto bait Mr. Tancredo into a third-party candidacy to split Republican votes.
“IthinkthegoaloftheDemocrats is not going to be good legislation, I think it’s going to be empowering a third-party candidate,” he said.
Mr. Tancredo has been considering a run for the Republican nominationin2008,andsaidNov.8hehas notmadeadecision.Buthesaidpundits will take the wrong lesson from his party’s election-night losses.
“The results of this election, although they did not occur as a result of the immigration issue, will nega- tively affect our cause more than anybody ever anticipated,” he said.
Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who wants a crackdown on illegal immigration and opposes a guest-workerplan,saidRepublicans didn’t lose because of immigration but in spite of it.
He said Mr. Santorum came late to the issue and “it looked like it was a political position for him rather thanaconviction.”AsforMr.Graf,he had to fight both Democrats and Republicans, who poured money into the race trying to defeat him in the primary.
“Weknowwherethepollsare;we sawtheDemocratsrunonbordersecurity,” Mr. King said.
He vowed to redouble his efforts to fight a guest-worker bill, but said he also sees Mr. Bush signing whatever Congress sends over: “It’ll be hard for him to resist a bill that will be put on his desk by a new Democratic majority.”