Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Immigration bill update

In today's action on the immigration bill before the Senate, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, put forward his amendment to cut the number of guest workers from 600,000 to 200,000. The amendment passed 74 - 24, with Republican Senators splitting down the middle. It's not as good as Dorgan's amendment, but if the final bill makes it through, it's better than nothing, so its passage was a minor victory. Sens. Tester and Baucus voted for the amendment.

Somehow lost in the fuss over Sen. Byron Dorgan's failed attempt to strip the guest-worker provision from the immigration bill now in the works in Washington was another roll-call vote where the results were also interesting, and where Montana's two Democratic Senators again came down on the right side.

On Monday, there was a vote on a motion to proceed with the bill. Sens. Baucus and Tester were two of only four Democrats to vote against proceeding, joined by Sen. Byrd of WV and Sen. Dorgan of ND. On the Republican side, 19 Senators voted against proceeding.

This means that 17 of the Republican Senators who voted against Dorgan's amendment had earlier voted to kill the entire bill. This points toward a reliable 19 votes against the bill if it remains essentially unchanged. If the Democratic Senators who voted against the guest-worker provision hold firm, there are more than enough votes to uphold a filibuster -- and as Republican Senators continue to get an earful from the base, those 19 Republican votes should grow in number.

We will continue to monitor Montana's Senators as votes go by -- realizing that there is a lot of bargaining and maneuvering going on, and realizing that corporate America has a lot of campaign dollars to throw around. But so far, so good.

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