Congress Daily reported today on the current state of play for border security legislation in the Senate, which suggests that the Senate leadership is pursuing a “two-track” approach: letting the Judiciary committee draft a bill, but with Majority Leader Bill Frist reserving the right to draft his own bill. From the article:
A chairman’s mark expected to be introduced this week will resemble the mark [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen] Specter circulated last year, which borrows components from various immigration proposals. It included the border security provisions in the plan introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., as well as the guestworker plan introduced by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Specter has characterized the mark as a “starting point” for debate.
Frist has told colleagues he wants to begin floor debate in late March, likely March 27. Senate aides said whether the bill will be written by the committee or leadership depends on how the Judiciary Committee markup goes. “If the committee keeps the bill solid, and if it gets it done on time, Frist won’t need to introduce anything,” one GOP aide said.
The question remains: what would cause Frist to write his own bill? He has generally seemed inclined to favor the broad outlines of the Judiciary Committee’s bill. Perhaps he’s reserving this as a contingency in case the political climate requires a more punitive and interdiction-focused bill, akin to the one that passed the House in December.