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Amnesty Debate Derailed... by McCain?

2:20 PM, Apr 3, 2008 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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I've written before on Congressman Heath Shuler's claim that John McCain has quietly intervened to discourage House Republicans from forcing a debate on immigration. I've argued that the claim is implausible, since 175 out of 198 Republicans have signed a discharge petition designed to force a debate, compared to just 10 Democrats. If McCain is discouraging Republicans from signing the petition, he's obviously not being very effective. McCain's staff also denies the claim. Further, the debate would/will be very painful for Democrats. So Democratic leaders who want to avoid the bill have reason to try and throw up some dust.

With this prologue, Roll Call today reports that several House Democrats claim at least one Republican refused to sign on because of McCain's opposition:

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), who was negotiating the package among disparate groups of Democrats and Republicans along with Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), said a senior Republican came to him and Emanuel and told them that McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, didn't want to deal with immigration this year.

But read the rest of the piece, and you see that the Democrats weren't talking about the Shuler border enforcement bill per se; they plan to use support for the Shuler bill to force a new debate over comprehensive immigration reform:

A week before the March recess, House Democrats thought they were close to getting a deal on an immigration package that would include temporary visas for most illegal immigrants, expanded visas for temporary workers and border enforcement provisions...

Hispanic Caucus members said they had not heard of McCain's involvement one way or the other, but Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said McCain's recent backtracking from his support of comprehensive immigration legislation in favor of border security first has been "most unhelpful..."

Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joe Baca (D-Calif.) blamed GOP leaders, not McCain, for supporting discharge petitions rather than working with Democrats on a larger deal...

So McCain's team says that he didn't intervene, while Democrats continue to claim that he did. In either case, it seems that the Democratic leadership is dead-set against a simple up or down vote on Shuler's enforcement bill. Instead, if the discharge petition gets to 218 signatures, we'll be treated to a comprehensive reform debate.