Evidently frustrated with progress on border security legislation in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced late last week that he would introduce his own border bill, the Secure America’s Borders Act (SABA). Frist’s Senate website contains the complete text of the new bill and a summary analysis of it.
The bill looks a lot like what I predicted as the “most likely outcome” in this post in late December: “a relatively modest bill that strengthens border staffing and technology, improves the detention and removal process, and makes modest improvements to workplace enforcement, but doesnâ€™t include a Southern border fence or a guest worker program.” We’re likely to see a strong push from the proponents of these latter items to bring them into the Senate’s legislation, but Frist is calculating (correctly, in my judgment) that he doesn’t have the votes for a bill that includes either a fence or a guest worker program (or both), and wants to ensure that something passes this year rather than nothing.
The risk that Frist runs by promoting a stripped-down bill is that if the legislation passes, it will get steamrolled by the stronger House bill in conference, and then possibly get shot down when it comes up for a final vote in Senate. But this is a smaller risk than the current likelihood of stalemate and intransigence on border security legislation in the Senate.