This front-pager in today’s Times actually did a good job of intimating the tough road the bill faced in the Senate. Three moderate-conservative freshman Senators — Jim Webb of Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill voiced their opposition — in ways that echoed conservative Republican concerns (not the liberal Democrat view that the bill was too harsh on undocumented workers); meanwhile socialist independent Democrat Bernie Sanders’ had a unique take:
The three lawmakers, who find themselves in similar political situations after close election victories in states carried by Mr. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, compare notes on a variety of issues.
“I will confess I check Tester’s and Webb’s vote before I check Harry Reid’s,” said Ms. McCaskill, a former prosecutor and state auditor.
Of these three freshman Democratic senators, Mr. Webb has shown the most willingness to
entertain the idea of supporting the measure if it were revised to his liking.
“There is a lot of good in this bill,” Mr. Webb said Wednesday. But his proposal to limit the opportunity to gain legal residency to immigrants who have been in the country for at least four years was soundly rejected by the Senate, 79 to 18, making it unlikely that backers of the measure can count on his support.
“To include every single person who, with a few exceptions, was here in this country as of the end of last year I think violates the notion of fairness among a lot of people in this country,” Mr. Webb said. “And it’s one of the reasons why we have had such a strong surge of resentment toward the legislation.”
Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading Republican opponent of the bill, said it was telling that some of the Democrats who had just won their seats were those pushing most strongly against the legislation.
“Some of the new members looked their voters in the eye and said they were not for amnesty and were for stricter enforcement,” Mr. Sessions said. “Now, if they don’t honor that, it is going to poison their relationship for some time.”
And that is just what the three lawmakers are determined to avoid, even though they will not be back on the ballot until 2012. “This was a big issue in Missouri,” Ms. McCaskill said. “I had a consistent and clear message during the campaign, and I feel obligated to act on that.”
Other Democratic freshmen like Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island have been supporting the bill. Senator Bernard Sanders, a newly elected independent from Vermont who usually sides with Democrats, has been opposing the measure, arguing that it could be detrimental to American workers.
Anyway, today’s vote means the immigration bill is dead for this year — and most likely for the remainder of Bush’s term.
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