Arguing With Joe Guzzardi: Our Near-Death Experience With Amnesty In 2006
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In his recent column Don't Let Harry Reid Rent Space In Your Head! [January 30, 2007], editor and stalwart — and my good friend! — Joe Guzzardi wrote:
Reid has proven repeatedly that he can’t count votes. If he could, none of the proposed 2006 and 2007 amnesties would ever have come to the floor. All were soundly defeated–a total embarrassment to the Democrats.
Of course, we all hope Joe's main prognostications in his article are dead on, but his paragraph above is not quite right, and it's important. In fact, S.2611 — best described as comprehensive amnesty, with all the trimmings — handily passed the Senate on May 25, 2006. The country was saved, literally, by the House Republicans, who simply refused to take up the Senate-passed bill.

Instead, then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), in his finest hour, organized a series of hearings by House committees around the country, including even one in Montana, to gauge public sentiment. Presumably Hastert knew what they would find, since that year he'd attained personal clarity:

Every state is a border state, and every town is a border town. I’ve just returned from a very informative trip to the southern border, but everywhere I travel around this country, illegal immigration is a top concern. It’s a top concern among Americans because they want our southern and northern borders to be secure.
After the round of hearings ended in late summer, we heard no more about S.2611. Because the Republicans controlled the House, the country was allowed to live (at least for awhile). But those same Republicans were too timid to actually campaign on their country-saving feat in the mid-term elections that fall and, thus, lost their majority, to the wonderment and disgust of many.

The Republicans' fecklessness at this potential hinge-point in our national life was the subject of some memorable posts by writer Lawrence Auster, including this post, wherein he despaired:

Through all of 2006 I urged the House Republicans as strongly as I could from this tiny perch to publicize their opposition to the Senate immigration bill, S. 2611. They had heroically stopped the bill cold in the House, refusing even to go into a House-Senate conference, an almost unprecedented act of defiance. But they did not inform the voters that they had done this. In fact, they seemed ashamed of having done it. In a classic example of seizing defeat from the jaws of victory, they allowed the media to spin the story as, "Do-Nothing Congress Fails to Pass Immigration Reform," instead of as, "House Republicans Stand like a Stone Wall against the Worst Bill in American History."
Back to S.2611: The bill's proponents (McCain, Kennedy, Martinez, Reid, and Specter being primary traitors) first had to invoke cloture, to end debate. That takes 60 votes, and they won 73 - 25. Then the bill actually passed the Senate 62 - 36.

This illustrates the ability of legislatures to put on a show for the mostly-inattentive public. The crucial vote was cloture. Then some senators who'd voted for cloture (a "procedural" vote) to shut down debate, thus assuring the bill's passage, voted against the bill, proper. This would let them later claim to press and public that they'd been against amnesty and, in fact, had voted that way. (See this related discussion about our 2007 success against death-sentence-by-amnesty.)

I took those vote totals from the page for Montana's Sen. Baucus [scroll down for year 2006 votes] at the Americans for Better Immigration website.

Here I bring up a further cautionary note on what Joe Guzzardi wrote: Baucus, who's been in Congress since 1975 and the Senate since 1979, has had a generally lousy record on immigration votes. But, likely anticipating his 2008 re-election run, he got religion in 2007, voting against amnesty at every turn. (In fact, Montana was the only state with two Democratic senators who both stood strong against amnesty in 2007.) Now that he's been resoundingly re-elected to his sixth term, whether we can count on Baucus's vote going forward, as Joe does, is an open question.

Undoubtedly what was crucial last time was concerted pressure from constituents, as Baucus acknowledged here. Further, field staff members in Bozeman told several of us that the DC office and all seven field offices across the state were inundated with calls that were 100% against amnesty.

So read — and take heart from — Joe's analysis of our prospects. But please don't think he's giving you leave to retire from the fray! A civilization is at stake.

(By the way, Montanans may be interested in this.)

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