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The conservative wing of the GOP will not delight in the Senate's agenda for this session of Congress. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist left illegal immigration and gay marriage of of the list of top Republican issues:
Senate Republican leaders outlined their 10 top legislative priorities yesterday, focusing mainly on cutting taxes and restructuring Social Security. But two notable omissions -- changes to immigration laws and a ban on same-sex marriage -- underscored tensions with their conservative wing. ...
The Senate Republicans' top 10 list calls for adding private accounts to Social Security, extending President Bush's tax cuts, limiting personal-injury lawsuits and expanding domestic oil exploration. But GOP Senate leaders moved cautiously on more contentious issues, including abortion, same-sex marriage and immigration.
This will be news to conservatives like Rep. James Sensenbrenner, who eventually signed onto the 9/11 Commission "reforms" even though they included nothing about illegal immigration. The Bush administration and GOP leadership promised Sensenbrenner that the issue would be taken up in the next session of Congress. Now it looks like Frist wants to drop it from the radar screen. He doesn't even have the nerve to explain it himself; he sent Rick Santorum to deliver the bad news:
Although their House counterparts are preparing to offer anti-terrorism legislation that includes broad crackdowns on illegal immigration, Senate Republicans did not mention immigration in the legislative agenda they outlined for reporters yesterday. With several Republican senators supporting expanded guest-worker programs, "we don't have a consensus" in the Senate GOP caucus, said its third-ranking leader, Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.).
What is Frist thinking? Santorum already has problems with conservatives in Pennsylvania, thanks to Frist pushing Santorum to support Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in the Republican primaries last spring. Now he's using Santorum to shield himself from conservative wrath over the retreat on border security. That should help the Democrats grab Santorum's seat in 2006, as it almost guarantees a primary fight with Toomey or someone that Pennsylvania conservatives can trust.
In an age of terror and in a time of war, there should be no higher priority than securing our borders, one way or another. I understand that some may have different ideas of how to accomplish it -- but dropping it to a secondary or tertiary position on the agenda is unacceptable. It not only discounts national security, but it's just plain political stupidity. The omission allows Democrats to seize it as a way to establish national-security credentials at GOP expense.
After watching Frist get pushed around on judicial nominations last year, I wondered if the GOP leadership in the Senate needed a backbone transplant. I'm thinking that the entire central nervous system needs replacing now.Sphere It View blog reactions
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