Immigration Effort Lacks 2nd Backer From GOP

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, April 5, 2010

As President Obama and Senate Democrats push to pass an immigration bill this year, one key ingredient is still conspicuously missing: a second Republican to co-sponsor the legislation.

Most Republicans considered likeliest to join Sens. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, in writing a bill either have taken a pass or are still on the fence. Key figures say the country does not have the kind of consensus needed to tackle the issue.

“It just doesn’t exist anymore,” said Sen. Jon Kyl, the Arizona Republican who in 2007 took the lead on writing a bill with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, only to see it fail when a bipartisan majority of senators joined a filibuster against it.

Mr. Schumer and Mr. Graham are guardedly pressing ahead with a bill that would legalize illegal immigrants, establish a new system for allowing in foreign workers, and tighten controls on employment, including requiring the use of biometric identification Social Security cards.

Mr. Schumer sees a path for a bill, Mr. Graham sounds uncertain, and both of them are looking to Mr. Obama to help.

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Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has indicated that he wants the Senate to act on the immigration issue this year. Although solid bipartisan sponsorship is not required, it has been the goal for every other immigration bill.

Mr. Schumer said that if backers can find a second Republican, the other pieces of the puzzle will fall into place.

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Sen. Richard G. Lugar, an Indiana Republican who supported immigration bills in 2006 and 2007, was an early focus for Democrats. He said Mr. Schumer approached him last year to ask him if he was interested in joining forces, but Mr. Lugar declined.

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Former Sen. Mel Martinez, Florida Republican, would have been an obvious choice. As a Cuban immigrant, he was outspoken in calling on his party to embrace legalization and was a key author of the 2006 bill.

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Several news reports said Mr. Schumer is hoping that Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, would be willing to join forces. Mr. Cornyn is the ranking Republican on the immigration subcommittee on which Mr. Schumer serves as chairman.

Mr. Cornyn wrote his own immigration proposal along with Mr. Kyl several years ago but did not join the 2007 efforts. Mr. Cornyn, who as a Texan has a close view of border issues, is also chairman of Senate Republicans’ campaign committee, and signing on to an immigration bill could hurt his efforts there.

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Texas’ other Republican senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, is also not co-sponsoring the legislation, according to her senior legislative adviser.

It likely will be easier for Mr. Schumer to find a Democrat to co-sponsor his legislation. Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, has been mentioned.

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