Is it possible that the House and Senate will agree on an immigration bill? For most of June, the answer seemed to be no.
The House Republican leadership announced it would not appoint members of a conference committee to reconcile the border-security-only bill the House passed in December with the comprehensive (border-security-plus-guest-worker-plus-legalization) bill passed by the Senate in May. Instead, House Republicans would hold hearings around the country in August -- hearings expected to be forums for complaints about illegal immigration and demands that border control be strengthened before any legalization or guest-worker program is passed.
Meanwhile, the Senate seemed likely to stick with the approach taken by a bipartisan, mostly Democratic majority that rejected limiting the bill to border security. Deadlock seemed likely.
But three developments last week may be reviving the chance immigration will be passed. The first was the renomination of Utah Rep. Chris Cannon in the Republican primary on June 27. Cannon has supported guest-worker legislation and measures to allow children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to state colleges and universities. His opponent, John Jacob, spent thousands of his own dollars to attack Cannon for supporting "amnesty" and actually led Cannon in the Republican convention, where incumbents are usually renominated routinely. Polls showed the race close. But Cannon won 56 percent to 44 percent, down just slightly from his 58 percent to 42 percent margin over an immigration opponent who spent much less money two years ago.
If Cannon had lost, House Republicans surely would have panicked and stonewalled any approach but border-security-only. But his victory -- and the fact that he ran ads with endorsements from George W. Bush, who supports a comprehensive bill -- indicates that his positions are not political death, even in a district that went 77 percent to 20 percent Republican in the 2004 presidential election.
The second development was an interview of Sen. Arlen Specter in The Washington Times on June 27. Specter is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and supported the Senate bill. He would be the lead Senate voice in any conference committee. Specter still insists that the Senate will only accept a comprehensive bill. But he did concede that he might accept a version that made guest-worker and legalization programs contingent on concrete achievements in border security.
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