In the aftermath of the failure to get cloture on the immigration bill, many pundits suggested that the Republican caucus got cold feet after hearing from their constituents. Instead, I wrote that the compromise doomed itself to failure through a process that cheated legislators of access to crafting changes and generally arrogated power to a selected few Senators. (I went into greater detail on my CQ Radio show the previous day.)
There are three primary reasons the bill failed:
* The complicated legislation, constantly being tweaked by the White House and Deal-Makers, is full of loopholes and problems that deserved amendment and full consideration -- consideration denied by the Democrats.
* The White House, certain Democrats and the Deal-Makers blatantly disregarded the legislative process -- drafting the bill behind closed doors, skipping the committee process, jamming the bill through the system, limiting the number and type of amendments that could be offered and trying to close down debate on the bill long before appropriate concerns with the bill had been addressed fully.
* The American people rightly refuse to buy what the Deal-Makers are selling -- the rewarding of legal status in our country to millions who ignored our laws in exchange for yet another promise to fix our broken immigration system.
The circular goes into detail about the specific complaints of the bill's opponents. None of them have as much to do with substance as with process. In fact, the two subject headings that detail the underlying complaints of the summary are "Important Republican Amendments Rejected, Ignored, or Undermined" and "A Failed, Anti-Democratic Process." As I warned last week:
The handful of Senators in the coalition never showed the bill to anyone prior to dumping it on the Senate and demanding that the committee process be bypassed and the debate schedule truncated. Even Harry Reid could not abide that kind of arrogance and extended the debate so that people could actually read the bill. The Senate then took on the role of Committee Of The Whole, but on such an accelerated rate that Reid had to ration the number of amendments. In the end, he didn't leave enough time for the bill to have its proper review, and it failed -- and quite properly.
Regardless of the merits and demerits of the bill, this process was atrocious and arrogant. Had the bill come through committee as was proper, we wouldn't have had the parliamentary free-for-all we saw these last two weeks. It would have allowed for interested parties to carefully peruse the legislation, fix its myriad problems, and have an intelligent debate over amendments. Instead, we had the ridiculous fire drill of a nine-day scrum to determine the overhaul of our entire immigration and border security systems, starting in ignorance and ending in ignominy.
This is why the current bill will never make it back off the table. In order to get any more support from Republicans -- and they need 15 more votes -- the entire mess has to go through the normal legislative process. That will take weeks, perhaps even months, but it's the process that should have been used all along. That would have avoided the need for extensive debate and amendments in the last two weeks, and it would have removed the arrogance from the process.
In a development that underscores the death of the current bill, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isaacson appear to have defected from the Grand Coalition, and now want a supplemental spending bill that focuses on border security:
We believe the way to build greater support for immigration reform in the United States Senate and among the American public is to regain the trust in the ability of the federal government to responsibly administer immigration programs and enforce immigration laws. There is bipartisan agreement that we need to secure our borders first, and we believe this approach will serve as a platform towards addressing the other issues surrounding immigration reform.
To that end, we believe that you and your administration could alleviate many of the fears of our constituents by calling for an emergency supplemental bill to fully fund the border and interior security initiatives contained in legislation currently pending in the Senate, as well as any outstanding existing authorizations. Such a move would show your commitment to securing the border first and to stopping the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs into our nation. It will also work towards restoring the credibility of the federal government on this critical issue.
"Outstanding existing authorizations" means the 854 miles of border barriers authorized and funded by the last Congress. Build that, and we'll get back to you, Chambliss and Isaacson told the President in this statement.
UPDATE: I'm not saying that the grassroots efforts had no effect, and I would certainly encourage people to continue contacting their Senators to explain (politely) their opposition to the bill. Gary Gross even got a nice response from Norm Coleman by doing so. What I'm saying is that this bill had almost no chance of passing from the very beginning.