Republicans gird for coming tough fight over amnesty for illegal aliens
Sen. Jon Kyl said on Nov. 13 that aRepublican-ledfilibusterwouldbe onthetabletoblockimmigrationlegislation supported by congressional Democrats and President Bush that grants citizenship rights to illegal aliens.
“Itwouldbeinorder,”theArizona RepublicantoldradiohostLauraIngraham. “My only question is whether we’ve got the votes to do it.”
Thecommentshighlightthedeep divide between most congressional Republicans and the White House overanexplosivepoliticalissue.And, comingfromtheNo.4Republicanin thechamber,thetoughtalksuggests the final two years of Mr. Bush’s presidencycouldseeheightenedbelligerence from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
“Thisisatroublingsign,”saidJim Manley, spokesman for Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “I hope the president will work with Democrats on the Hill to pass bipartisan, comprehensive immigration-reform legislation early next year.”
Though Mr. Kyl indicated he would support a filibuster, he’s not confidentthatheandhisalliescould secure the 40 votes necessary to block the immigration legislation that passed earlier this year. The legislationgivesillegalaliensadirect path to citizenship and allows them tocollectSocialSecuritybenefitsfor the work they’ve performed.
“I would certainly hope that the majority of Republicans in the Senatewouldnotbecomplicitinpassing legislation that is not wise, that, for example, would put everybody on a path to citizenship and say that temporary workers get to get U.S. citizenshipandsoon,”hesaid.“Clearly, a majority of the Republicans in the Senate don’t want that kind of legislation, but whether we’ve got 40 votes, I’m just not sure.”
In May, 36 senators opposed the legislation. The overwhelming majority of them were Republicans. In the Nov. 7 elections, four of those opponents lost their seats. Only one supporter of the bill — Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee, who is retiring — will be replaced by a Republican who might join those opposed to the bill.
With only 32 or 33 members opposedtothelegislation,afilibusterattempt seems unlikely to succeed. EvenifMr.Bushweretovetotheleg- islation,therewouldbeenoughSenate support to override it.
All hope among tough opponents of illegal immigration rests with the House, where Republicans maintained a hard line against any legislation with even a hint of amnesty in it. Democrats picked up some 30 seatsintheelections,butmanyofthe new Democrats are from conservative areas and are opposed to amnesty.
The challenge would be for Republican leaders to pick off enough of those conservative Democrats to overcome broad support among most in the caucus.