Opponents of Sen. Larry Craig’s worker-amnesty legislation (the so-called Ag-jobs bill) were quick to signal victory on Tuesday after the Senate voted against attaching it as an amendment to the $81 billion Afghanistan-Iraq war supplemental funding bill. But the defeat of Ag-jobs, which would grant amnesty for up to 1 million illegal-immigrant agricultural workers and their families, is deceiving. For once, Sen. Ted Kennedy, a co-sponsor, got it right.
“I think we’ve got a very critical mass,” he said after the vote. Mr. Kennedy was referring to the 53 senators, including 15 Republicans, who voted for the amendment, which fell seven votes short of the 60 required to pass. We defer to Mr. Kennedy’s political acumen on this one point. Not only will Ag-jobs live to fight another day, but it looks as if the pro-amnesty forces in the Senate have captured the momentum.
Of the 15 Republicans who voted for the amendment, some are members of the party’s moderate-to-liberal wing—Sens. Lincoln Chafee, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter. The others are generally pro-amnesty Republicans, with the possible exception of Montana’s Conrad Burns, who straddles the fence on immigration issues. Since these senators will probably not change their vote when Ag-jobs returns, anti-amnesty senators are already in the minority.