Thursday, June 22, 2006

Immigration CW Dead; Border Bill a Go

Just a few days ago folks were saying that it looked like an immigration bill was dead for the year, because Speaker Hastert wanted to stay away from an issue that divided Republicans. Well, as of this afternoon, it appears that Hastert has completed a 180.

National Journal (subscription required) reports that Speaker Hastert is committed to passing 'a strong border security bill:'

GOP Leaders To Outline Immigration Principles, Hearings

House Republican leaders this afternoon planned to unveil a set of principles on border security and a preliminary schedule for field hearings they plan to hold on the immigration issue this summer. In a move intended to allay criticism that their hearings are an effort to delay or derail an immigration bill, House Speaker Hastert was expected to commit to passing "a strong border-security bill," according to a GOP leadership aide. The principles included boosting resources for border control, toughening enforcement and raising penalties for violations of immigration laws, and cracking down on employers that hire illegal workers. The principles also include opposing "efforts to reward the behavior of illegal immigrants who have made the choice to break our laws," an apparent dig at the Senate-passed immigration bill, which would give most of the illegal immigrants now in the United States a shot at becoming citizens. Hearings will be conducted by Judiciary Chairman Sensenbrenner, Armed Services Chairman Hunter, Homeland Security Chairman King, and Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., the chairman of the International Relations Terrorism Subcommittee.

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Specter held out hope that the House and Senate might yet pass immigration legislation this year despite major differences between the House and Senate bills. Specter told reporters that he had had "a good discussion" with Sensenbrenner about the bills and cited "some progress" between Senate and House staff members to resolve differences. Although he said he did not want to overstate that progress, he said discussions will continue. Specter also will hold hearings, and he said today that the first one, scheduled for July 5 in Philadelphia, will focus on the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The Senate bill would clear a path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants if they meet strict conditions, but that feature is absent from the House bill, which focuses almost entirely on enforcing borders. Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee ranking member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said he was "still very hopeful we can get an immigration bill." But Judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., took a dimmer view, saying that the plan for extended House hearings "pretty well kills the bill." Leahy said of House leaders, "They are going to walk the bill to death."
-- by Emily Heil and Mike Posner

The Corner provides the principles released by Boehner's office, referenced in the article.

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