At this point, McCain had no recourse but to admit he was proposing amnesty from document-fraud prosecution for illegal aliens whom he would put on the path to citizenship. "The senator is aware that when people come here illegally, obviously, they do not have citizenship, so, therefore, any Social Security number they use, whether it belongs to someone else or is entirely invented, is not valid," McCain said.
Shortly, McCain also implicitly conceded that Ensign's amendment would not deprive anybody of a "nest egg" they had saved -- and explicitly stated that it was his intention to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits, which they had no reason to expect, for work they did here illegally.
"Of course they didn't expect to receive benefits they had to pay here illegally," said McCain. "The whole thrust of this legislation is to give them not only Social Security benefits but, as importantly, the protections under the law, as they now live in the shadows and are exploited and mistreated in many cases."
Ensign, by contrast, was trying to protect U.S. citizens from paying taxes to provide retroactive Social Security benefits to illegal aliens who had exploited the government's non-enforcement of both the immigration and document fraud laws.
Ensign's amendment lost by one vote. Obama, Clinton and McCain voted against it.
On Jan. 5, one of the taxpayers Ensign was trying to protect asked McCain a question at a town hall meeting in Peterborough, N.H. He was a legal immigrant from India. "I'm a proud American, and I don't understand, for the love of me, Republicans and Democrats calling illegal immigrants guest workers and providing for them and allowing them all kinds of services," the man said, according to The Associated Press. "And I'm given to understand you endorse some of them."
McCain was indignant.
"I do not support nor would I ever support any services provided to someone who came to this country illegally, nor would I ever and have never supported Social Security benefits for people who are in this country illegally, that is absolutely false."
Unfortunately, no one in Peterborough had the parliamentary privilege to ask the senator to yield.