Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Immigration bill Dead on Arrival - Bush's albatross and Reid's genius

Well, I can't say it hasn't been a heart-stopping ride this week with all these amendments flying around. But to take a step back from the visceral personal aspects of this bill, I wonder if Harry Reid is cagily playing the Republicans on this bill. The first cloture vote failed and now he is scheduling another one later in the evening.

Like he has no or little intention of letting this bill pass (please, oh please) and is just using all this mileage to rile up the xenophobic Republican base to hate Bush more. What makes me even think this?
Senate negotiators sought to rescue immigration legislation that would grant legal status to 12 million undocumented aliens after the measure failed a critical test vote.

The 33 lawmakers voting to limit debate on the plan were 27 short of the 60 needed to move toward final passage. Democrats scheduled another vote for later this evening. Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, a chief negotiator, said it was ``touch and go'' whether enough members would agree to curtail debate.

If a second vote fails, ``the bill's gone,'' said Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. ``What else can I do?'' He appealed to President George W. Bush to twist the arms of 47 Republicans who voted not to limit debate, saying the legislation's demise would produce headlines that ``the president fails again.''

``It's his bill, it's not our bill,'' Reid told reporters. ``It can't pass unless we get significant Republican support.''

...Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, accused Republican opponents of offering amendments simply ``to embarrass those who support'' the legislation.

`Needs to Help Us'

``If Senator McConnell wants to pass President Bush's immigration bill -- crafted by his Cabinet officers'' then the Republican leader ``needs to help us,'' Durbin said.

Note Reid and Durbin's clever phrasing that it's "the president's bill," tying it neatly to the presumptive standard bearer of the GOP. I think that's why he allowed Dorgan (D-NE) to refile the guestworker amendment at the end of last night, so that the coalition would be in confusion, knowing that it was a poison pill for the Republicans.

Majority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republicans would be to blame if the bill failed, claiming President Bush did not rally his party.

"The headline (tomorrow) is going to be . . . president fails again," he told reporters. When one pointed out that Reid allowed a vote on Dorgan's amendment two weeks after a similar move failed, he snapped at the reporter.

"Listen, let's not focus on Democrats," Reid said.

I am sorta quite impressed at Reid's cojones. Look at how he congratulates Dorgan after the bill passes.
Why was Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) given a second crack at his immigration amendment that was rejected two weeks earlier and tagged as a potential deal breaker?

One answer: Until he got a vote, Dorgan threatened to slow down the process by objecting to any unanimous consent agreements offered by bill managers to push the measure toward a final vote, according to Senate aides.

“I had a right to get a vote on my amendment,” Dorgan said this morning.

Another reason: A majority of the Democratic caucus, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the rest of the Democratic leadership, wanted to see the Dorgan amendment approved.

Dorgan’s amendment, which received 37 Democratic votes early this morning, would phase-out the temporary guest worker program after five years.

Sen. Jon Kyl, the GOP’s chief negotiator, has said he could not support the bill with a phase-out of the guest worker program, setting up a showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the fate of the bill.

Democrats convened a caucus meeting this morning to discuss strategy. As Reid emerged from the meeting, the majority leader tapped Dorgan on the back, smiled and said, “excellent.”

When asked what Reid was referring to, Dorgan shrugged.

This wouldn't be the first time that Reid has been a wily strategist - remember in 2005 he forced a closed session of Congress to discuss intelligence failures and then he made the Republicans look like whining ninnies.

Live blogging...and now the bill is dead. And papers are totally buying Reid's spin. Sweet!

``I want to finish this bill, but I can't do it alone,'' Reid said. ``Let's have President Bush work with us.''

The measure's failure is a defeat for President George W. Bush and a bipartisan group of senators who negotiated a compromise to give legal status to immigrants in this country illegally and create a guest-worker program to help U.S. employers fill jobs that Americans won't take.


(Reuters) - A White House-backed bill revamping U.S. immigration laws stalled in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, handing President George W. Bush a major legislative setback.


NYTimes ---- This evening’s vote is a bitter disappointment for President Bush, who has made comprehensive immigration reform a priority.

...Before this evening’s crucial votes, Mr. Reid made it clear he would hold Republicans, who voted unanimously against limiting the debate, responsible if the bill died.

“The headline’s going to be, Democrats vote to continue the bill, Republicans vote against it, the president fails again,” predicted Mr. Reid.

Awesome - I get to have my cake, and eat it too! and wait for a Democratic president. Time to send Harry Reid some moola. Cos it's not like Dems don't control both houses of Congress, and couldn't get the bill passed for Bush to sign. Harry Reid, you just made my day with your feint-block-parry-thrust. If it were possible to think a 68 year old man with glasses was sexy, I would, but damn! Look at the brains on you! Masterful, indeed.

And remember what I said about how some of the most conservative Republicans had joined in voting to end the guestworker program and that ideologically, it didn't sound right, that they might be voting strategically to kill the bill? I was indeed correct, my suspicions confirmed in the WashPost.
But just past midnight this morning, Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), along with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), switched votes to pass what Republican architects of the compromise immigration bill are now calling a deal killer.

DeMint and Bunning conceded they supported the guest worker program, but their votes were intended to bring down the bill.

"My preference is to stop it and start again," DeMint said, explaining his vote switch with, "if it hurts the bill, I'm for it."

...But Lott made it clear, with conservatives furious at the president for his support of the bill, Bush's support may not help.

"With regard to the president, on this issue, I hope he concentrates on the G-8," he said.

NICE - Reid has singlehanded managed to cleave the GOP base between the corporatists and the xenophobes, and he managed to chop through the notoriously disciplined Republican voting bloc in the Senate. He also timed it to coincide with a Republican debate where you got plenty of GOP presidential candidates blaming the president, and only McCain supporting Bush on immigration. Beautiful way to get them in a circular firing squad. As has been noted, immigration for the GOP is like Iraq for our base. And the cherry on top is that the Dorgan amendment wins a Democratic senator in a red state some major points from his constituents who are against increasing the number of immigrants. Wow, this man IS the Art of War, I wouldn't want to play chess against him.

If you think he's as awesome as I do, send him a donation ending in .67 and tell him it's for today's date June 7th and the trick he pulled off. I didn't see the full picture last night but I see it now, and it's a doozy. Majority Leader, I will try to have more faith in you next time around.

PS: Washpost has a handy one-stop shop for all the roll calls.

PPS: It's not just the victory for or by Harry Reid alone - our community made a difference by getting Democrats to rethink their votes and to prize family reunification.

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