Yesterday, a GOP aide, who is one of my sources in the Senate, gave me the rundown on what’s happening with the Senate immigration bill (This is the same person whom I talked to before, here (1), here (2), and here (3).
First of all, on Tuesday, after the first cloture vote, the bill was supposed to come out around 2:30 P.M. on Tuesday. However, it didn’t actually get handed out until around 5:15 P.M. This was a problem, in and of itself, because we’re talking 373 pages and the 2nd cloture vote is on Thursday. That was a lot of material for these senators to pour through in such a short time.
Then on Wednesday morning, the bill was out on the internet and bloggers started picking it apart and that morning around 10 AM, Reid pulled the bill so it could be re-drafted because he said there were mistakes in it. They spent almost the whole morning drafting it and when they re-released it, it was 400 pages long. That means that it’s likely when the vote occurs tomorrow, not a single senator voting on the bill will have had an opportunity to actually read it. Reid’s response to complaints about that has basically been, “Trust me.” My source told me that the general response to that from the anti-amnesty senators has been something akin to, “Yeah, right.”
My source then emphasized how ridiculous this whole process has been. You had a few senators getting together in secret to write the bill and then they tried to ram it through before anybody could read it. However, because the bill was held over the Memorial Day break, it failed cloture and died the first time. Then it was brought back this Tuesday, by using an arcane maneuver in a way that has never happened before in the history of the Senate. Most conservatives were locked out of presenting amendments on the bill and now, we have a bill that was again, written in secret, that none of the Senators have read, that the “grand bargainers” are trying to shove through in less than 48 hours. In short, this whole process, from top to bottom, has been a complete joke and it’s shameful that the Republican leadership in the Senate is cooperating with Harry Reid to run roughshod over conservatives on this issue.
From there, we discussed how my source thinks the vote on cloture will turn out tomorrow along with a few side issues.
To begin with, my source said he is guardedly optimistic that the bill will fail the 2nd cloture vote tomorrow. That is because he thinks that some of the senators who voted for cloture on Tuesday were doing so because they were being “senatorial” by allowing a debate. But, that only goes so far, and everyone realizes at this point that the Thursday vote is the final vote on amnesty as far as the base is concerned. In other words, a “yes” on cloture is a “yes” to amnesty.
At that point, I asked about the “fool the yahoos” maneuver. Will there be senators voting “yes” on cloture and then voting against the final bill and hoping that they can avoid being tagged as supporting amnesty? He said that because of all the attention this issue has gotten, the base isn’t going to be fooled and that anyone who does that will just have to hope that his election isn’t close enough that thousands conservatives sitting at home can swing it the other way.
Additionally, I asked my source about Lindsey Graham suddenly talking tough about not voting for the bill unless a touchback provision is added. What is his motivation for that? He told me that he thinks Lindsey Graham is just running scared at this point. He’s up for re-election in 2008, his poll numbers are plunging, and talk radio and the conservative blogs are mercilessly beating him up every day. So, he’s looking for some kind of fig leaf to use as protection. He added that unfortunately for Graham, the touchback provision probably wouldn’t cut it. For the most part, the base isn’t impressed with it, and most of the people who support that provision are already inclined to support amnesty anyway.
Another thing I inquired about was the glut of attack ads aimed at Republican senators that have been produced by conservative bloggers over the last couple of days. Is that getting any attention? He said it is hard to tell how much sway those are having with senators, but he could at least confirm that he has heard staffers talking about them. So, they are definitely aware that conservative bloggers are out for blood on this issue.
From there, he noted that James Webb has told multiple senators that he voted in favor of the first cloture vote because he had his arm twisted, but he didn’t like how he was treated, and had no intention of voting for the second one. Still, he said don’t count Webb as a definite vote against cloture because he might get his arm twisted again.
Last but not least, I asked him if the phone calls were still rolling in. He told me that there were so many calls coming in that most callers were getting busy signals and that it was absolute “pandemonium” in his boss’ office today because the phones just never stopped ringing. So, make no mistake about it, the pressure, which was already relentless, has actually increased on these senators over the last few days.
PS: I asked my source about his last report, where he said that there wouldn’t be any amendments voted on before the 2nd cloture vote. He told me that the situation was very fluid and that originally, that was Reid’s plan. But, he said things changed and that Reid felt compelled to have votes on the amendments before the 2nd cloture vote in order to have a chance to pass the bill.
PS #2: If you want to know who’s leading the fight against the bill, my source says Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn, David Vitter, and Jeff Sessions are on point.