Immigration Bill Has New Life In Senate

Claudia Hanson of Sebring, Fla., left, participated in a Mall rally against illegal immigration yesterday.
Claudia Hanson of Sebring, Fla., left, participated in a Mall rally against illegal immigration yesterday. (By Nikki Kahn -- The Washington Post)
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 15, 2007

Senate leaders, under pressure from pro-immigration groups and facing a determined push by President Bush, agreed last night to bring a controversial overhaul of the nation's immigration laws back to the Senate floor as early as next week.

The bipartisan negotiators working on the immigration bill whittled hundreds of amendments down to a package of 11 amendments from Republicans and another 11 from Democrats and then presented their compromise to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (Miss.) indicated earlier that he could produce enough GOP votes to clear the 60-vote threshold to get the bill back to the floor and push it to a final vote.

With Reid's demands satisfied, he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a terse statement: "We met this evening with several of the Senators involved in the immigration bill negotiations. Based on that discussion, the immigration bill will return to the Senate floor."

Members of both parties cautioned that passage is still anything but certain.

"I'm sure senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk-radio people who don't even know what's in the bill," Lott said. He added that the "leadership will have to be prepared to do what needs to be done."

The breakthrough was a clear victory for Bush, whose visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday appeared to come too late to resurrect a measure that had been pulled from the Senate floor five days earlier.

"We are encouraged by the announcement from Senate leaders that comprehensive immigration reform will be brought back up for consideration," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "We look forward to working with senators as the process moves forward."

Administration officials worked hard to mobilize business groups and immigrant rights organizations to counter a furious response from the bill's opponents.

Spanish-language radio personality Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo delivered to the Senate yesterday more than 1 million letters from U.S. citizens and legal residents supporting the measure, and Roman Catholic leaders launched a push to revive the bill.

For his part, Bush sought to reassure conservatives that the controversial bill would provide resources for more effective border control, endorsing a new plan to devote $4.4 billion in fees raised by the legislation to bolstering border surveillance and preventing illegal immigrants from being hired in workplaces.

"We're going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept," Bush told members of the Associated Builders and Contractors who gathered for a conference downtown.

By endorsing the plan, proposed by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the president was sending another signal to conservatives to rethink their opposition to the comprehensive immigration measure.

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