Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Senate Republicans finally wake up and smell the coffee
Senate warms to 'border first'

Key backers of the Senate immigration bill said yesterday they are willing to consider a compromise that would delay the guest-worker program and "amnesty" portions until the borders have been secured.

The proposal was floated by Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter in an interview Monday with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

"I think it's worth discussing," said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican. "Many of us have said we could work on border enforcement and, at the same time, work on other aspects that would take more time."…

The House and Senate approved very different immigration bills, with the House focusing on building 700 miles of fence on the U.S.-Mexico border, boosting enforcement and requiring employers to verify that their workers are here legally. The Senate bill boosts enforcement, too, but also creates a program for future immigrant workers and a path to citizenship for many current illegal aliens.

On Monday, Mr. Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who will lead House and Senate negotiators in the conference committee, told The Times that border security should be the top priority in the final bill and that he is open to a compromise that would make the guest-worker program and path to citizenship for illegal aliens contingent on first ensuring a secure border and improved interior enforcement.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and key backer of the Senate bill, said yesterday he could see that as a possibility.

"I'm open to the idea that you'd have ... border-security benchmarks, interior-enforcement benchmarks, and once that's fulfilled, you start assimilating people," he said.

But just a month ago, many of these same senators -- including Mr. Specter, Mr. Graham and Mr. Kennedy -- voted against a proposal that would have set out a similar timeline requiring border security and improved enforcement before the rest of the Senate bill could proceed…

Many lawmakers say a final bill including any form of "amnesty" would never pass the House, whether those provisions are delayed or not.

"I don't think the House will go for anything that puts citizenship in the bill," said Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, who thinks a compromise bill with a guest-worker program could work, as long as it didn't include citizenship for the millions of illegals already here, as the Senate bill would do…

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6/28/2006 4:16 PM  

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