Border security legislation is moving forward fast and furiously in the Senate, with the Specter bill moving out of the Judiciary Committee by a 12-6 vote tonight following a series of amendments. Meanwhile, Sen. Frist is still indicating that he wants to move on the stripped-down border security legislation that he introduced last week as an alternative to the Specter bill, put Minority Leader Harry Reid has promised to tie up that bill procedurally. Meanwhile, President Bush gave a speech today that reiterated his support for a guest worker program, arguing that this would not amount to amnesty. All this come against the backdrop of the protests this weekend in Los Angeles and other cities over the prospect of new immigration and border security legislation. And don’t forget that we’re still in the mid-innings of this debate: all of this is really just positioning for the likely House-Senate conference to reconcile H.R. 4437 and whichever bill passes the Senate.
I’ve offered periodic predictions as to the likely outcome of this debate on border security legislation. It’s still difficult to forecast the endgame with any certainty, but one way to predict the outcome is to ask: who needs to compromise? And who can afford not to compromise? For example:
- Will compromise with the Senate and the White House help or hurt the ability of the House Republicans to retain control of the House in the November elections?
- Will the supporters of Specter’s bill be tarred with the charge of “amnesty” to their political detriment?
- Will Sen. Frist jeopardize his ability to attract Hispanic voters in a Presidential run by putting forward this alternative bill?
- How strongly will Bush insist on a guest-worker program at the end of the day – would he sign a bill without one as a political necessity in September or October?
- Will the rallies and protests against punitive legislation build support for a more lenient bill, or will they instead backfire?
The debate on the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks about this legislation should be interesting. Stay tuned.