A proposed immigration overhaul narrowly survived several strong Senate challenges Wednesday, but it suffered a potentially deal-breaking setback early Thursday.The interesting thing about this is that it looks like a coalition of Labor-supporting Dems paired with the few outspoken Republican critics of the Bill who turned the tables. There's your bipartisan support.
Shortly after midnight, the Senate voted 49-48 to end a new temporary worker program after five years. The vote reversed the one-vote outcome on the same amendment — offered both times by Sen. Byron Dorgan (news, bio, voting record), D-N.D. — two weeks ago. Six senators switched their votes, reflecting the issue's political volatility.
The temporary worker program is crucial to many business groups, and the bill's backers vowed to try on Thursday to undo the damage. Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., said he or his allies would slightly reword Dorgan's amendment and hope for a change of heart by one or more senators who "don't want to kill the bill."
Dorgan, who contends that immigrants take many jobs Americans could fill, said no one in the debate "is talking about the impact on American workers."
"There are a lot of people here who want jobs and can't find jobs, and find downward pressure on their incomes," Dorgan said.
The vote on his amendment brought a jarring close to a long day that, until then, had pleased proponents of the immigration bill, a priority for President Bush.
Anyway, I would suspect that the exact details of this vote will be important after tomorrow's cloture vote. If there were 49 votes for this measure, the 61 votes needed for cloture are unlikely to be there for Senator Reid. Look to him to withdraw the bill tomorrow evening after cloture fails, and the finger pointing and recriminations to begin.
I believe, as I did all along, that the necessary political will needed to pass this bill was never there, and this entire enterprise has just been one long opportunity to posture. It will be interesting to see who the winners and losers are in the fallout.