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September 11, 2006
Frist Underscores Border Security In Session Agenda

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist pens a column in today's Washington Examiner regarding the priorities at the top of his legislative agenda. As he promised in our interview, national security will occupy most of the Senate's time, but as I predicted, he will hit border security as a big part of that picture:

Homeland security stands atop my list of remaining priorities. Last month’s arrests in England reminded all of us that, almost exactly five years after Sept. 11, terrorists remain intent on attacking and killing Americans. ...

Congress must also work to secure America’s borders.

While the Republican Congress has already devoted billions of dollars in new spending to border security, our frontiers still need additional protection.

Thus, as we appropriate money, we’ll provide funds to hire new Customs and Border Protection personnel, provide them with necessary equipment, and begin the construction of a mixture of virtual and physical fencing covering every inch of the United States’ southern border.

Conservatives had given up hope that this Congress would address the porous southern border. With the short session upon us and the nationwide immigration hearings stalled, the effort looked dead for this year. However, the overwhelming consensus to secure the border gives Frist and House Speaker Denny Hastert a mandate to address at least that portion of immigration reform.

It will, of course, get resistance from the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate, as well as a few Republican members. As I wrote earlier, the loss of border control as a bargaining chip would mean legalization would never get any support in either chamber. The reformers cannot afford to allow border control to get resolved separately, and they will fight it tooth and nail in the next few weeks.

This is what makes the issue irresistible for Republicans, especially given their testy relations with conservatives of late. If Frist can push through an overhaul of border defenses in the south, then the GOP rank and file will have a long-sought victory and will turn out in greater numbers. If the effort gets blocked by Democrats and moderate Republicans despite the efforts of GOP leadership ... then angry conservatives will turn out in greater numbers to defeat the obstructionists.

I never doubted that the Republicans would miss this low-hanging fruit for the midterms. Expect this effort to be high profile. Read the rest of Frist's column for a good outline of what else we can expect in the next few weeks.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 11, 2006 6:11 AM

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