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After the New York Times reported two days ago that Republican leadership in Congress would drop immigration reform from their legislative agenda in the remainder of this session in favor of national security issues, I predicted that border security would remain, detached from the broader effort at immigration reform. Today, the Washington Times confirms this, as House Republicans have gotten support from key GOP Senators to pursue the issue in terms of national security:
House Republicans will make a final push to get border-security legislation on President Bush's desk before November's elections, senior aides told The Washington Times yesterday.
Top Republicans are planning a series of tough new border-security measures that they hope can get through the Senate, which in the past has opposed border-security legislation unless it has included a guest-worker program and grants citizenship rights to the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens already here.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said yesterday it would be "next to impossible" to approve such comprehensive immigration reform, but several key senators said they are willing to consider a border-security-only approach.
"If our only options are a half a loaf or no loaf, then I'd be inclined to take half a loaf," said Sen. John Cornyn, the Texas Republican who for years has been a leading advocate of comprehensive immigration reform that secures the borders.
As I noted, this will put Democrats on the spot and highlight yet another difference between them and the GOP for these midterms. For House Republicans, it also expresses once again their preferred approach to the immigration question altogether, as they have resisted the comprehensive reform approach of John McCain and the Democrats in the Senate. They have consistently demanded that border security get approached as a national-security issue, not as an immigration issue, as the 9/11 Commission recommended.
The entire Democratic caucus in the Senate will oppose this effort, and they will not be alone. Senators such as Arlen Specter and the gentle-ladies from Maine will also want border security tied to immigration liberalization and a program to normalize the 12 milllion illegal immigrants already in the country. They understand that border security has to remain on the table to get conservatives to acquiesce to normalization, because without it normalization will get laughed out of both chambers of Congress.
John McCain will provide the key. He championed the linkage between the two in the Senate, and he may well stick with that tactic. However, if he continues to block border security, he will make his relationship with the conservatives in the GOP even worse than they are now, and he knows it. If McCain pursues a legislative agenda at odds with conservatives on national security, they will flock to Rudy Giuliani's side in 2008 if a conservative candidate does not effectively compete for the nomination. They know that even with his more liberal views on social issues, Giuliani would not leave the borders unsecured for political advantage.
The GOP will not ignore border security in this session; bank on that.Sphere It View blog reactions
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