Senator Dorgan makes some excellent points about the immigration bill. also the bill has been shelved.
The widely-criticized immigration reform bill died on a procedural motion in the Senate on Thursday night, but key negotiators are suggesting that it may live to see another day.
Republican Sens. Arlen Specter, Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham and Mel Martinez were all upbeat after a vote to end debate failed 45-50, failing to reach the 60-vote threshold to move toward final passage.
Despite the fact that it was primarily Republicans who voted against the maneuver, all the GOP lawmakers who spoke with FOX News were upbeat that 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.
Graham said he talked extensively with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and is confident the bill will return for senators to take another crack at developing a comprehensive plan to legalize millions of foreigners living unlawfully in the United States.
"I know where the votes are for final passage. ... We're going to get this done," Graham said, adding that the topic is not going to go away. "All I can say is, if you name a post office, you're going to be talking about immigration."
"There are ways we can do this," Reid said later. "There can be an agreement on the number of amendments. Hopefully we can do that in the next several weeks. We're very close."
Reid said support for the bill exists across the country despite repeated polls showing growing opposition to the thrust of the bill and many of its specifics — particularly on the issues of legalization for illegals here now, a guest worker program and chain migration.
"There are a lot of good things in this bill," Reid said. "I'm a creature of the Senate. I understand we live by the rules that govern this body. I accept that. We're going to do everything we can to pass this bill as soon as we can. When is that? I don't know, but we're going to work hard and try to put aside the hurt feelings that we have. The country needs and the Senate needs to do this."
In the meantime, Reid said, President Bush, who champions the comprehensive reform bill, needs to work harder to get Republicans in line.
"Where are the president's men?" Reid asked. "Where are the president's people. I want to finish this bill. But I can't do it alone, we (the Democrats) can't do it alone. We need some help. And I would hope the president understands....he has a relatively short period of time to help us with this piece of legislation."
The legislation up for debate included a temporary guest worker program and a pathway to legalizing the estimated 12 million or more illegal immigrants in the U.S. It also offers provisions to tighten borders and institute a new system to prevent employers from hiring undocumented workers.
As the Senate drew closer to a vote on the bill, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill, spending nearly three hours in negotiations in a back room off the Senate floor.
Upon leaving, both men shook bill sponsor Kyl's hand and showered him with praise and encouragement, saying the bill would get done. Gutierrez promised, "We're going to get there. No problem."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed that the Senate was close to passage of this bill. McConnell, R-Ky., said the bill failed because Democrats tried to rush it, not allowing Republicans to offer key amendments — like tougher border security measures and legalization process for illegal immigrants — that could win over opponents. All but seven Republicans voted against ending the debate.
"Both of us desire the same result, which is to get a bipartisan immigration bill that would be an improvement over the disastrous status quo we have now," McConnell said of himself and Reid.
"I think we were very close to getting there," McConnell added. "We could have finished this bill in a couple of more days in my judgment. We're giving up on this bill too soon. I think we are within a few days of getting to the end of what many would applaud as an important bipartisan accomplishment of this Congress."
Eleven Democrats also voted against ending debate, even though many who supported it had complained that the bill created a class warfare scenario that locks temporary workers into second-class citizen status and rips apart families by favoring employability over blood ties in the approval of future immigrants.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., called the death of the bill, "a disappointment" but held out hope the measure would survive.
"This issue isn't going away," Kennedy said. "Doing nothing is not an option."
Specter, one of the negotiators in what had been dubbed the "grand bargain," condemned the death of the bill, arguing there was opposition on both sides of the aisle but that Republicans did more to hopelessly stall the bill than did Democrats.
The Democrats were wrong but the Republicans were wronger, to use a word that doesn't exist."
Specter also said the Senate was diminished by the debate and its inability to pass the bipartisan compromise.
"To listen to the debate the last several days, I think people wonder just what is going on," Specter said. "We crafted a bill, bipartisan...and as of this moment we have not succeeded. I believe we will yet succeed. Accusations have been made that it is amnesty but the fact is if we do nothing we have silent amnesty. This matter is on life-support but it is not dead. It is not moribund."
While Reid insists the bill is not dead, a crowded Senate calendar complicates its prospects. Reid immediately moved onto energy policy after the vote.
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