On Thursday night Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the immigration reform bill that was pulled from the Senate floor last week, after failing to 60 votes on a measure to end debate, will return to the floor next week. In a brief joint statement the senate leaders said, â€œWe met this evening with several of the Senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations. Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor after completion of the energy bill.â€ (The energy bill is not expected to be finished until the end of the current week, which means that the immigration bill could return as early as next week). However, this does not mean that the bill has an improved chance of passing.
President Bush did his part to help advance passage of the immigration bill by announcing on Thursday that he supports an amendment that would release $4.4 billion for increased border security. Supporters of the immigration reform bill hope that Bushâ€™s announcement persuades some skeptical GOP senators to switch their votes, but this bill still faces two huge obstacles. The first of these is the fact that the most controversial part of the reform bill is the guest worker program. This is the part of the bill that critics call amnesty, and senators like Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina still refuse to support any immigration reform bill that contains a guest worker program. The other obstacle is that only 7 Republicans voted for the bill last time. Even with this support, and that of 38 Democrats, the bill still fell 15 votes short of passage.
The bill is also wildly unpopular among Americans in general and Republicans in particular. 77% Americans donâ€™t support the bill. The distaste for this bill is at about the same level in both parties. 79% of Republicans and 71% of Democrats oppose the bill. Without addressing the guest worker program, there is no way the bill supporters are going to pick up the 60 votes needed to pass the bill. When a piece of legislation is this unpopular in both parties, I donâ€™t see how it passes. As long as the guest worker program is still in the bill in any way, shape, or form the Republicans who despise it will never vote for it, and the supporters of the reform will never remove it. Overall, I still think that it is unlikely that gain enough votes to break the filibuster and move towards a final vote on passage.
Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com. Â His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politicsÂ