Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Congress back in session: Now what?

Its summer break over, Congress started up again today. After immigrant rights advocates rallied and marched in cities around the country over the Labor Day weekend in the hopes of re-igniting reform, the big question is whether Congress will even bother to revisit the issue.

Some, like the columnist Robert Novak have pointed out that immigration is shockingly absent from recently circulated Republican to-do lists for the fall. The New York Times reported that the majority party on Capitol Hill has "all but abandoned a broad overhaul of immigration laws and instead will concentrate on national security issues they believe play to their political strength." The newspaper quotes Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee: "I don't see how you bridge that divide between us and the Senate. I don't see it happening. I really don't."

The Congressional Quarterly reports that some lawmakers argue that the House field hearings made the chances of a successful conference more difficult by making a policy debate resemble a political campaign. The news service quotes Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, who participated in several of the summer hearings. "I think these hearings were put up as a way of wasting time, as a way of getting through August and September. I think that is the whole strategy behind this. I believe we are not going to get anything done."

Despite this naysaying, maneuvering is still happening in Washington. The Congressional Quarterly reported that some Senate leaders are seeking the help of President Bush to strike a deal. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) plan to meet with the President and ask that he call House Republican leadership to the White House and prod them towards a compromise.

But it may just be too late... November elections are only a few weeks away.