June 26, 2007


Kennedy's zeal for immigration deal alienates liberals: The Senate will hold a test vote on the bill today (JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, 6/26/07, Associated Press)

Months of tumultuous negotiations with the White House and GOP allies have brought the Senate's liberal lion, Edward M. Kennedy, to the brink of passing a bill to legalize up to 12 million unlawful immigrants.

But his concessions to get there have alienated liberals who in the past have counted him as their strongest champion. A showdown test vote is scheduled today, and the Senate could pass — or reject — the bill by week's end.

Traditional Kennedy allies are angry at the Massachusetts senator's willingness to accept Republican-backed measures such as subjecting illegal immigrants to steep fines and trips home, separating immigrants from relatives and letting new guest workers stay only for short periods of time with little chance of citizenship.

"I think that in his heart, he's where I'm at, but he wants to see a deal move forward and he's willing to take certain steps that I might not be willing to take," said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

It's a familiar spot for Kennedy, 75, whose liberal standing during his 45 years in the Senate belies his history of partnering with Republicans on major domestic agenda items.

He's done so twice before with President Bush, on the No Child Left Behind education law and on a broad Medicare prescription drug overhaul.

Labor Coalitions Divided on Immigration Overhaul (STEVEN GREENHOUSE, 6/26/07, NY Times)
Now that President Bush has rallied Republicans to try again to reshape the immigration laws, supporters of the effort have a new worry. When the bill returns to the Senate floor, probably next week, opposition from labor unions could doom the bill’s prospects by putting pressure on many Democrats to vote against it.

The threat that labor poses to the bill has gone largely unrecognized in part because three prominent unions — the service employees, the farm workers, and the hotel, restaurant and apparel workers — have backed the legislation. But that support, advocates say, has been outweighed by opposition from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and virtually all other unions, including auto workers, Teamsters, food and commercial workers, and construction unions. [...]

Supporters of the bill say that the A.F.L.-C.I.O., in opposing the legislation, is focused on protecting the gains that its mostly middle-class members have made in pay and benefits over the decades. To the labor federation, the big worry is that the bill’s guest worker provision will pull down wages, take away jobs from Americans and exploit immigrants.

While Al Gore, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barrack Obama served decades in the Senate between them they've left not a trace of their presence. As mere party hacks they're incapable of the kinds of compromises with the opposition that produce meaningful legislation. Great legislators--Bob Dole, John McCain, Ted Kennedy--have to keep the end always in sight and not fret about the peripheral stuff. During the Bush years this has meant that Ted Kennedy handed conservatives two of their most devout wishes--school vouchers and HSAs--in exchange for some federal money. On immigration it means adding tens of millions of voters who oppose him on social issues and undercutting Big Labor just because conscience demands it. He's smart enough to grasp that none of the peripheral stuff matters, not least because he was there for the Reagan-Simpson amnesty and knows no American would fund or staff the enforcement provisions that get added to stroke the Right.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 26, 2007 8:47 AM

"He's smart enough to grasp that none of the peripheral stuff matters"

And if Teddy Kennedy is smart enough to figure something out, it must be really, really obvious.

Posted by: b at June 26, 2007 10:53 AM