Facing a rebellion from some key Republicans, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has abandoned efforts to produce a new immigration bill and is proposing using legislation produced last March by the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary committee as the starting point for negotiations this year, lawmakers said on Monday.
Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is principal architect of immigration legislation in the Senate, now controlled by Democrats, said he was shifting gears in hopes of winning Republican support and speeding the passage of immigration legislation this spring. Four of 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted last year for the committee’s bill, which would tighten border security, create a temporary worker program, and legalize the nation’s illegal immigrants.
President Bush said on Monday in Guatemala that he hoped to see an immigration bill completed by the fall and that he was working with Republicans to define a position most could support. “If we don’t have enough consensus, nothing is going to move out of the Senate,” Bush said.
Kennedy and a Republican colleague, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, had spent several months trying to produce a new immigration bill that was expected to be introduced this month. But several Republicans protested that they were shut out of the negotiations. They began drafting their own bill, led by Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the Republican moderate who led the debate on immigration in the Judiciary Committee last year.
Meanwhile, McCain, who led Republican lawmakers in championing immigration legislation last year, has appeared to be backing away from that role, several congressional aides said.
Conservatives have sharply criticized McCain, a leading Republican presidential candidate, for supporting efforts to put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship.