Friday, June 29, 2007

The immigration reform bill is dead. Long live immigration reform.

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I've already said what I've wanted to say about the immigration reform bill. It was a sensible attempt to deal with one of the most challenging issues facing the United States today. But because it was sensible, and good, it aroused the ire of the extremists, and particularly the xenophobic extremists of the right, which is much of the Republican Party these days, and certainly most of the wingnut blogosphere. And those extremists are cheering, for the bill is dead:

The most dramatic overhaul of the nation's immigration laws in a generation was crushed yesterday in the Senate, with the forces of the political right and left overwhelming a bipartisan compromise on one of the most difficult issues facing the country.

With 53 senators against moving on to a final vote and 46 in favor, supporters fell dramatically short of the 60 votes needed to overcome the delaying tactics and parliamentary maneuvers that have dogged the bill for weeks.

But let us be clear, once more. This front-page article in the Post makes it seem as if left and right, Democrats and Republicans, were equally responsible for killing the bill. But it was not so.

The bill was killed by a 53 to 46 vote. This was a vote on a cloture motion. The majority of 53 voted against "moving on to a final vote". Democrats voted 33 to 15 for moving on to a final vote. Republicans voted 37 to 12 against moving on to a final vote. (You can find the details of the vote here.)

The 12 Republican dissenters included such moderates and mavericks as McCain, Lugar, Graham, Snowe, Gregg, Hagel, Martinez, and Specter. Whereas it is more difficult to label the Democratic dissenters (although some of them are so-called moderates like Webb, Bayh, and Tester, other so-called moderates voted with the majority of the party), it is clear that the overwhelming bulk of the mainstream of the Republican Party, a mainstream well to the right of the rest of the country, is against sensible immigration reform.

Democrats were hardly united in support of this bill, but Republicans deserve most of the blame for killing it. And for that, no doubt, they will be vigorously applauded by their xenophobic base.

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