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Immigration Measure in Doubt Over Senate Defections

Bloomberg | June 28, 2007
James Rowley and Nicholas Johnston

The fate of U.S. immigration legislation was cast into doubt when at least six senators who helped revive the proposed overhaul said they either oppose or are leaning against a move to permit a vote on final passage.

The measure is in more jeopardy ``than I thought a few hours ago,'' said Senator Christopher Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat.

The supporters' strategy of disposing of amendments that threatened the legislation's bipartisan support hit a procedural snag late in the day, adding to the uncertainty. The Senate refused to set aside an amendment by Montana Democrats Max Baucus and Jon Tester that would dilute requirements employers verify the identity of new workers.

Under Senate rules, Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, now can't move to consider other provisions without getting the consent of all 100 senators.

``I think this hurts'' the measure, said Texas Republican John Cornyn, an opponent.

Earlier today, Senate sponsors had succeeded in killing a series of proposed changes that would undermine the measure's support. Nonetheless, senators who voted yesterday to resume consideration of the bill were withdrawing support.

Leaning Against

Republicans Richard Burr of North Carolina and Christopher Bond of Missouri and Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska said they oppose permitting a vote on final passage. Virginia Democrat Jim Webb and Republicans John Ensign of Nevada and Pete Domenici of New Mexico said they were leaning that way.

It takes 60 votes, or three-fifths of the Senate, to shut off debate. Yesterday, the Senate voted 64-35 to permit debate to resume.

Five other senators who voted to resume the debate said they are undecided on the next procedural test. They are 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.

The legislation would create a path to citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants, tighten the U.S. border with Mexico and create a guest-worker program to help employers fill low- paying jobs. The Senate had planned to complete action on the bill by the end of the week.

Angry Senators

Sponsors of the bill shut off efforts by critics to offer their own changes, angering some senators.

``We are in trench warfare and it's going to be rough,'' said Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter, a chief sponsor of the legislation. ``But we are going to see the will of the Senate work one way or another.''

The amendment that the Senate refused to table, by a 52-45 vote, would have deleted requirements that by 2013 employers insist upon an identification card that meets the specifications of the 2005 Real ID Act. That law gives states financial incentives to require a tamper-proof driver's license.

Baucus and Tester argued that, because more than a dozen states have opted out of the 2005 law, citizens of those states would be forced to obtain U.S. passports to get jobs.

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