The Washington Times’ report on the GOP senators who checked with Ted Kennedy before voting on amendments has some outraged comments attached, but that GOP senators worked to keep the deal alive doesn’t surprise or offend me –the deal that they agreed to just wasn’t good enough. I assume that Kennedy followed the GOP lead on amendments from the left even as they followed is lead on amendments from the right. (If it was a one-way deal, that would be a huge story.)
What matters now is not President Bush’s arm-twisting, but whether Senator Kennedy wants a bill badly enough to sweeten it for the GOP dissenters. I have laid out here and here what I think are the bill’s fatal flaws as originally drafted, and even Michael Medved –a bill supporter– seems likely to turn on it unless the immediate conferral of probationary benefits pre-triggers isn’t fixed. From yesterday’s conversation with Michael (full transcript here):
HH: What do you think is the most important objection that the White House has to listen to?
MM: I think that they have to listen to the objection that this bill provides some kind of instant probationary status. And that’s the biggest problem with the bill as I understand it at the moment. And of course, it’s all very fluid. It changes, literally, from day to day, as more amendments have been voted on, and some of the amendments have definitely improved the bill. But I think that what they need to do is make it very clear that this bill grants absolutely nothing to anybody who crossed the border illegally, or who overstayed a visa illegally, until they have already completed at least half of the total border fence, and been able to certify in a way that Congress will accept, not some independent executive commission, but Congress will accept, they’ve been able to certify that they have greatly slowed the crossings at the border.
HH: So that first objection is 601h, which says okay, file the paperwork the day after the bill passes, file the paperwork. If you’re not rejected within 24 hours, we’re going to give you travel and work permits. You are against that?
MM: Of course, yeah, because I think that comes dangerously close to the A word.
The GOP negotiators have to sit down with Kennedy and point out to him that even the bill’s supporters are demanding common sense changes, and get the Massachusetts’ monuments thumbs up or down on the key changes that need to be made. If Kennedy gives the ground –and it is all on stuff that makes sense– expect the bill to return. If Kennedy wants it dead, it’ll stay dead.