<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
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Desertions by Some Senators Could Kill the Immigration Reform Bill on Thursday, but a Cavalry Could be Coming from the Left

Senate Democrats Baucus, Bayh, Stabenow, Tester, and Independent Sanders, After Defeating the Bill’s “REAL ID” Program, Hold the Fate of an Improved Immigration Law in Their Hands

By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

June 27, 2007

After clearing Tuesday’s cloture vote by a 64-35 vote split, the Immigration Reform Bill was debated for most of Wednesday in the US Senate. The final “cloture” vote – requiring 60 votes rather than a simple majority in the 100 member Senate – is likely to occur on Thursday morning.

That vote may be much closer, due to the reported desertions of four Republicans and one Democrat. If those reports are true about all five senators, that would almost certainly defeat any chance at immigration reform this year or next… Unless four Democrats and one Independent newly in play ride to the rescue.

All is not yet lost. Although President George W. Bush may not be able to hang on to all his Republicans, there are some key Democrats that could be on the verge of coming around to the wisdom that the American way is to welcome new generations of immigrants.

So before we explain how the voting on key amendments occurred today (in sum, four stupid or ugly amendments plus one good one failed, and one very good one passed, opening the door for various anti-bill Democrats to now vote to pass the bill), take a look at which senators, from which states, could decide the balance.

Among some Democrats that voted against cloture on Tuesday, two from Montana – Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester – are now in play, as are Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Indiana’s Sen. Evan Bayh, and have new justification to vote for it, after a civil libertarian amendment they supported was approved on Wednesday.

And keep an eye on Vermont’s independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who could make progressive history on Thursday by coming around – he also voted for the successful amendment – and casting the decisive vote.

Arkansas Sen. David Pryor, Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman could also be key: they voted for cloture on Tuesday despite enormous pressure from the Bigot Lobby, but they might wish to hear from constituents that insist they don’t desert the ship.

And Bush himself – the 900 pound gorilla on the Hill – likely has a few cards left to play on some GOP senators that voted against cloture on Tuesday but might vote in favor of it on Thursday. The question of Thursday will be: Does he have the will?

The Collapse of the Cowards

If the right-wing pundits for National Review magazine are telling the truth (something they’re not always known for doing), four Republicans and one Democrat that voted for cloture may switch. One of them, Kit Bond (R-MO), told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he’ll likely vote no on cloture. National Review’s Jim Geraghty is also predicting that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) will switch and vote against cloture on Thursday. The magazine also has Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) as among the wobbling.

Celebutard-in-chief Michelle Malkin claims that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is telling constituents he will vote “no” on cloture. And the more straightforward Noam Askew says that Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) will vote no on cloture.

Now, the wingnuts were wrong once already this week when they screeched in unison that Tuesday’s cloture vote would be razor-thin. (Narco News predicted “63 or 64” votes for cloture and 64 was the final number.) But if this time they are correct, and at least one senator doesn’t shift from anti-cloture to pro-cloture, that would mean a 59-40 split, falling one vote short of the sixty required to proceed.

And Bloomberg news agency reports that Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Jim Webb (D-VA) are talking about jumping ship. Bloomberg also reports that five others are wavering from their Tuesday pro-cloture vote: “Republicans Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Democrats Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.”

Democrats Pryor and Webb, who voted in favor of cloture on Tuesday, are, in fact, among the eight senators targeted by the right-wingers, and that needs to be spoken loudly so that, if either caves, it will be known that they caved to the anti-immigrants.

That’s why suddenly the votes of Democrats Baucus, Bayh, Stabenow, Tester, and Independent Sanders now are key.

If the bill is to survive tomorrow’s hurdle, it will certainly gain a majority when the Senate next votes it up or down. But the likelihood is that some of the aforementioned Democrats – Baucus, Bayh, Stabenow, Tester and Independent Bernie Sanders – will be needed for that to happen.

Baucus, Bayh, Stabenow, Tester and Sanders voted against cloture on Tuesday but also supported the Baucus-Tester amendment to eliminate the imposition of a “REAL ID” program that various states, including Montana, have already opted out of. Now that the bill no longer includes the “Real ID” requirement, these five senators, and perhaps others, have little excuse not to vote it through cloture. Indeed, if they do, the bill will likely be saved.

A Better Bill Without “REAL ID”

One of the good amendments to the immigration bill that we reviewed last Friday was that of the Montana Senators Baucus and Tester, to eliminate the REAL ID requirements from the legislation. The states of South Carolina, Montana, Washington, Oklahoma and Maine had already opted-out of the Bush Administration’s dream of a national ID system and New Hampshire joined that group today. (Which probably explains why GOP Senators John Sununu and Judd Gregg of that state joined in with the civil libertarians to approve the anti-REAL ID amendment late this afternoon).

As we had said last week, the REAL ID provision, even if it had passed the Senate, wasn’t likely to make it through the US House of Representatives.

But the passage of the amendment today in the US Senate forces, under Senate rules, a cloture vote as the next phase of the process on the immigration bill. That will come tomorrow morning.

The invasive REAL ID program was not a result of the immigration bill. It’s just that the bill would have given Homeland Security more power to force residents of opt-out states to all hold US Passports. That obviously makes no sense. And the Senate was wise to reverse it.

There are only two questions left, now, approaching tomorrow’s historic cloture vote on the Immigration Reform bill.

Will President George Bush walk his talk and hold onto enough Republicans to steer the bill through?

And will the Democratic Senators that wisely opposed the bill’s REAL ID plank now rally behind a bill that they have made better?

Senators Baucus, Bayh, Stubenow, Tester and Sanders: History is theirs to make or break on Thursday.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America