IMMIGRATION STRIKES BACK....

IMMIGRATION STRIKES BACK. To say a bit more on this, Reid and McConnell have struck a deal they think will shepherd the bill through the Senate. The key is a pay-to-play structure, in which precisely 22 amendments will be offered, and every Senator who offers an amendment agrees to vote for cloture in return. This, theoretically, will get the bill through cloture -- and Reid and McConnell wouldn't be bringing it back if they believed it would fail a second (well, technically, a fifth) time.

The next steps look like this. Reid could bring the bill to the floor as early as Monday, through a Rule 14 motion, wherein the Majority Leader pushes the legislation to the floor. A filing for cloture could come on Wednesday, and the vote could hit on Friday.

The question, of course, is what's different this time -- why will the bill succeed when it previously failed? There are a couple answers I'm hearing: One is that Bush is back (he was at the G-8 during the last push), and he's leaning hard. The second is this pay-to-play system. A surprisingly large amount of opposition came because various senators felt they were being shut out of the debate -- and anger was intensified because the next agenda item was the no-confidence vote on Gonzales. To close debate on the immigration bill for that the no-confidence vote caused serious resentment. Third is Trent Lott, who sees redemption in this bill, and says he's whipped enough GOP votes to clear cloture. Fourth is a counter-backlash from business and pro-immigration groups furious about the bill's original failure. Fifth is internal pressure from GOP strategists and party-builder types who don't want to lose the Hispanic vote for, well, ever.

Will these pressures pass the bill? Who knows? Reid and McConnell, however, would not be bringing it back up if they thought they were facing a second embarrassment. There's a second question, also, as to what the bill will look like when the amendments are closed. Dorgan's amendment to sunset the guest worker program remains in the legislation, and the other senators would be presumably less eager to enter into the pay-to-play structure if they didn't think they could alter the legislation, too.

--Ezra Klein

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