President Bush wants Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to resurrect the controversial immigration-reform bill that was pulled last night after a motion to cut off debate failed, White House adviser Dan Bartlett said today.
Asked about the bill as Bush prepared to leave the G8 Summit in Germany, Bartlett told CNN the president believes declaring it dead is premature, and he wants Reid to consider putting it back on the table.
The plan would allow millions of illegal aliens now within U.S. borders to pay a fine and become legal.
Bush plans to use a scheduled lunch with GOP senators Tuesday as part of a campaign by the White House and allies in both parties to placate or outmaneuver Republicans who blocked the measure, the Associated Press reported.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., is among opponents who say they have not been able to offer changes to the bill.
DeMint says the legislation “still unfairly burdens taxpayers, doesn’t ensure secure borders and guarantees amnesty” for illegal aliens.
Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the issue may be brought up again, with McConnell advising, “I wouldn’t wait a whole long time to do it.”
Fox News reported that all of the GOP lawmakers it interviewed believed the legislation could be revived soon – “even within a matter of weeks, with one negotiator noting that last year’s bill was first pulled from the floor by then-Majority Leader Bill Frist before it was brought back up again and passed.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he and Reid are confident the bill will be back.
The proposal tied tougher border security and enforcement of legal immigration status in the workplace to a procedure to legalize most of the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens already in the U.S. Also involved was a controversial temporary worker program and a procedure involving an evaluation of merit for future immigration.
The proposal floundered in a second vote that would have accelerated the Senate’s handling of the White House-backed “comprehensive” immigration reform. The divided Senate refused by a wide margin to limit debate on the plan. The 45-50 vote was 15 short of the 60 votes needed to move the legislation along.
Democrats then set the bill aside and took up other proposed legislation.
Bush has made immigration reform a focal point of his recent domestic policy, but Republican senators said they would not be hurried into a decision, offering a series of amendments to the plan.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., watched as the plan he helped craft disintegrate and warned the issue would experience a resurrection.
Critics said the plan would simply give amnesty to illegal aliens who broke U.S. law to enter the country, as well as create a separate “class” of cheap workers who would undermine the American wage structure
Eagle Forum, a leading pro-family organization founded by Phyllis Schlafly, praised the “tireless efforts” of the American people in voicing their opposition and successfully defeating S. 1348, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.
“It became obvious that the longer the Senate debated the so-called comprehensive immigration bill, the more the grass-roots opposition increased,” said Schlafly.
“The United States Senate finally listened to the overwhelming opposition to this amnesty bill,” said Eagle Forum Executive Director Jessica Echard. “With calls running hundreds to one opposed, there was no question that we don’t want new laws. We simply want our immigration laws, which already exist, enforced.”
Eagle Forum organized a coalition of outside groups to oppose the bill, similar to the coalition used to successfully defeat the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in 2005.
“This vote sends the message that the American people can still call the shots on how they are governed. The power of the White House, Big Business, cultural and religious elites was not enough to drown out the overwhelming public opposition to this bill. What a great day for grass-roots America!” Echard stated.
The plan would have allowed illegal aliens in the country as of this year to pay fees and fines and get renewable four-year visas to live and work in the U.S., put holders of those visas on a path to citizenship under certain circumstances, and set up a temporary worker program allowing 200,000 guest-workers annually to enter the U.S.
It also would have added 20,000 border agents, 370 miles of barrier fence and other efforts to crack down on illegal immigration.
As WND reported, the issue has torn at the Republican Party, with its grass-roots opposing the plan promoted by the president.
Just two days after Bush slammed critics of his immigration policy, the Republican National Committee reportedly fired all 65 of its telephone solicitors, as donors were said to be furious over the president’s stance to give legal status to millions of illegal aliens.
“Every donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue,” a fired phone-bank employee told the Washington Times.
Ousted staff members told the paper Anne Hathaway, the committee’s chief of staff, summoned the solicitors and told them they were out of work, effective immediately.
They claim the reasons they were given were an estimated 40 percent plunge in small-donor contributions, as well as aging phone-bank equipment the RNC said would cost too much to modernize.
The committee, however, is denying any drop-off in the influx of cash.
“Any assertion that overall donations have gone down is patently false,” RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt told the Times via e-mail. “We continue to out-raise our Democrat counterpart by a substantive amount (nearly double).”
As WND reported, Bush said in a speech last week opponents of the immigration deal “don’t want to do what’s right for America.”
“The fundamental question is, will elected officials have the courage necessary to put a comprehensive immigration plan in place,” Bush told students and instructors at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.
A recent Rasmussen poll showed only 26 percent of American voters favored the Senate plan.
The public is most passionate about enforcement, the survey indicated. About 72 percent of voters said it’s “very important” for “the government to improve its enforcement of the borders and reduce illegal immigration.”
The figure jumped to 89 percent among Republicans, while 65 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of unaffiliated voters believed enforcement is “very important.”
Editor’s note: The current edition of WND’s monthly Whistleblower is a cutting-edge look at the federal government’s immigration policies – and how the nation’s most vexing problem can be solved. It’s titled “NATIONAL SUICIDE: How the government’s immigration policies are destroying America.”