President Bush, promoting bipartisan immigration talks as they reach a critical stage, said Saturday that Republicans and Democrats are building consensus that could produce a bill this year.
"I am optimistic we can pass a comprehensive immigration bill and get this problem solved for the American people this year," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Bush's Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez are involved and Teddy Kennedy is playing a major role:
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., thanked Bush for "addressing the nation on this critical issue and emphasizing the common goals that we share.
"The American people will be watching and waiting to see if the Senate can come together on immigration reform and strike the right balance between strengthening our security and our economy and enacting laws that uphold the humanity and dignity of those who come here seeking a better life," Kennedy said.
Now, what does bipartisan really mean? Only a fairly small portion of the electorate in the US really supports increase of immigration. In the Pew Report,Beyond Red and Blue, these were called the "Liberals", "Enterprisers" and the "Upbeats"—the wealthiest voting blocks in the US.
Now, I suspect that Bush really can maintain his hold on the GOP. The Republican Party has never been particularly dDemocratic since its inception. The major changes have related to who controlled the purse strings there.
The Democrats are another matter. There simply isn't the depth of real estate wealth among major Democratic activists we see in the GOP. The Democratic convention is run on the basis of proportional representation—which means that a lot of rather disparate groups can get a foothold there.
The "immigration reform" being proposed here has supporters —and opponents—in both parties. The question here is whether either party can get real on immigration. I tend to think it is more likely that will be the Democrats for the simple reason that party is more democratic and thus has to be somewhat responsive to its membership/activists.
The GOP leadership can beat the war drums on issues like abortion and prayer in the public schools. The thing is, those issues are likely to fade in importance pretty rapidly for folks who are having real problems making ends meet.