Well, the 'conventional wisdom' that immigration legislation was dead for the year sure crubmled fast! If you've looked elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere, you've seen signs of a coming compromise on immigration. Mickey Kaus has covered it, as have The Corner, Captain's Quarters, and others.
Today National Journal's Congress Daily (subscription required) notes that the idea of a trigger is potentially the key to a compromise:
Idea Of 'Trigger' Gives Life To Dormant Immigration Talks
Conservative Senate Republicans said today support is building for a compromise on immigration legislation whereby border-security provisions would go into effect first and could eventually "trigger" broader immigration changes -- something that House Speaker Hastert indicated would be considered. The trigger idea has been held out as a potential bridge between the House and Senate immigration bills. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who sponsored an amendment to the Senate bill that would have made any immigration changes contingent on assurances that the borders are secure, said the trigger could help conferees working on a compromise. "Once they accept that we'll secure the borders first, I think there are a lot of things [in the Senate bill] that can be agreed to," he said. The House bill focuses solely on shoring up the border while the Senate measure includes a guestworker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Isakson's amendment was defeated during floor debate, but he and other senators said they thought the Senate would approve the measure if it was brought to the floor again, particularly if it helps create middle ground between the two bills. "Both those sides have softened and signaled they'll talk about the other side's priorities," Isakson said. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., noted Tuesday that a guestworker program or other legalization would take time to set up. Meanwhile, Hastert suggested that House Republicans would consider the idea, saying the "first step" must be beefing up border security. "If we do that and secure our borders, we're willing to look at other perspectives," he said. "I think there probably has to be some metric there, so probably what Sen. McCain is talking about has some substance." He added, "Some of our own members are floating ideas similar to that." House Majority Leader Boehner, though, ducked questions about whether House Republicans could accept such an arrangement, saying that he did not want to "negotiate in the press" or tie House conferees' hands...
This is no surprise. I've been saying for a while that the Senate would eventually agree to something similar to what the House has passed.
But while the Isakson trigger is attractive in concept, it will be tricky to put to paper. Conservatives will be very leery of any proposal that does not include hard, measurable criteria for reductions in illegal immigration. The White House and others will push for a mechanism that allows an immigrant worker program, as long as there's progress toward reducing illegal immigration - but which avoids hard numerical targets. One thing is for sure: there'll be no 'path to citizenship.'
Another thing which is almost certain is that there will be a clean up-or-down vote.
Congressional GOP leaders may ultimately have the option to include their immigration compromise in a larger package - such as an appropriations bill - thus allowing Members to say 'well, I wasn't voting on immigration alone - but on a much larger bill.' They will reject this option in favor of one that forces Democrats to choose between border enforcement and immigrant advocacy. This will be a clear signal that the Congressional GOP believes this is an issue that unites Republicans and divides Democrats - in sharp contrast with what most observers were saying just weeks ago.
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