Where is President Bush when the Democrats need him?

The morning after the 2006 election, I said that illegal immigrants were the winners. It was a plausible assessment. President Bush and the Senate (even when controlled by Republicans) already favored a “comprehensive” immigration reform package. The one obstacle had been the House, and now it would be controlled by the Democrats.
Mercifully, it looks like I spoke too soon. The Washington Post reports that Harry Reid will bring last year’s immigration reform package to the Senate floor next week. In the last Congress, that bill passed with 62 votes. However, according to the Post, Republican Senators are less receptive to the measure now. Sam Brownback, who is running for president, apparently has turned against it. John McCain at least no longer is pushing it. Sen. Durbin says McCain’s absence is making it harder to get Republican support, but it’s not clear to me that McCain is that influential with his colleagues. The explanation of Jeff Sessions seems more plausible — some Republican Senators backed the measure in 2006 because they were confident the Republican House would, at a minimum, insist on a tougher law.
In any case, the frustrated Democrats now seem to be pinning their hopes on President Bush. Sen. Leahy says, “The president has got to be personally involved; he cannot just send up Cabinet members. . .and think that’s going to get you through.” And Reid is casting the matter as an opportunity for Bush to gain at least one major second-term accomplishment.
Reid’s invitation should be reason enough for Bush not to throw much weight behind immigration reform. Further incentive perhaps can be found in the need to keep cener-right members of Congress happy — Bush is going to need them in the coming battles on Iraq. Indeed, it’s not clear that Bush has enough political capital to make much difference in the immigration debate.
Would Senators Reid, Leahy, and Durbin like to lend him some?


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