The bipartisan immigration reform bill is so far, surviving a mine field of both Democratic and Republican amendments today, and it looks like the bill will move on to a critical procedure vote on Thursday. The procedural vote requires 60 votes to pass, and if the bill falls short of this number, it will probably be dead. The Senate killed several Republican amendments, including one by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that were designed to toughen up the bill, and make it more appealing to conservative Republicans. The Hutchison amendment would have required all illegal immigrants to temporarily return home, in order to qualify for legal status. The current bill only forces the head of a household to return home before the family can gain legal status. After her amendment was voted down, Hutchison said, “I don’t see how I could support this bill in any form.”

Democratic Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) advanced an amendment that proposed legal status would be limited to illegal immigrants who have been in the United States for at least four years. The amendment also limited the eligibility for this to those people who had been in the country prior to January 1, 2007. The Webb amendment failed to pass and Webb said after the vote, “There is no question that our immigration policy desperately needs a fix. But I will have difficulty supporting the final passage of this bill unless it satisfies the criteria of creating a fair and workable path to legalization for those who have put down roots in this country; protecting the legitimate interests of all working Americans; and honoring the rule of law.”

The Senate also rejected an amendment by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) to provide more green cards to the parents of immigrants. The Dodd amendment failed to pass by a 56-41 vote. Dodd said in a statement, “I am very disappointed that my colleagues today failed to uphold and honor the family, an institution that is at the heart of what it means to be an American.  My amendment was one of fundamental fairness to our fellow citizens to have the freedom to spend time with their parents living abroad.  It was a basic measure that did not cut at the core of the underlying bill, nor was it partisan in any way. Yet still, some of my colleagues seem to be convinced that imposing excessive restrictions on visitation rights of parents of American citizens is necessary to reduce so-called chain migration.  I reject this notion…There is a lot of talk about family values these days.  I guess those values are only for certain kinds of American families – not every family.”

The Senate also blocked, by a 55-40 vote, a proposal by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would have given family members of citizens and legal permanent residents more points towards getting their green cards in the new merit based points system. Afterwards Menendez said, “Family reunification considerations never got a fair shake during this process. I am confident that had we gotten true up-or-down votes – without the threats, without the overblown rhetoric and without the procedural hurdles – we would have upheld a semblance of the core values that have been part of our immigration system for many years. It is ironic that the so-called ‘family values’ crowd was the very group that bitterly opposed amendments to strengthen families. This action does nothing to allay my concerns about the increasingly right-wing tilt to these proceedings, and it makes it more difficult to vote in favor of invoking cloture on the bill.”

There are a couple of things that you probably noticed here. One, the way that Harry Reid has run the amendment process has infuriated quite a few Democrats and Republicans. Two, getting the needed 60 votes on Thursday is not going to be an easy task. I still am not certain if this bill will ultimately pass or not. So far, it’s supporters are doing a really good job of moving it along, but in not too long the rubber is going to hit the road, and it is going to come up for a final vote. I wouldn’t be surprised if the bill was defeated with only 48 votes of support, nor would I be amazed if it passed with 55 or so votes. In the end, it will all depend on how may Republicans are willing to go against President Bush.

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at

Jason can also be heard every Sunday at 6:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at 

blog radio  


Be Sociable, Share!