Morris overstated Republican support in Senate for driver's license ban for illegal immigrantsApril 20, 2005 6:47 PM EDT ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
Fox News political analyst Dick Morris blamed opposition from Democrats for the Senate's decision not to pass new immigration restrictions. In fact, many Repubican senators also oppose the restrictions, which would forbid states from issuing driver's licenses to illegal immigrants and make it more difficult for immigrants to gain political asylum in the United States.
Though he acknowledged that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) opposes adding an amendment that would impose the restrictions to a supplemental appropriations bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, Morris suggested on the April 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes that few Republican senators oppose the restrictions. He declared that if "the Republicans" attempt to pass the immigration restrictions as an independent bill -- rather than attaching them as an amendment to the supplemental -- "the Democrats" would block it. He explained: "[T]he Republicans know that if they just pass that bill in the House and send it over to the Senate, the Democrats are going to filibuster it and kill the bill."
House Republicans successfully added the rider to the House version of the supplemental appropriation, but Senate Republicans are deeply divided on the immigration issue. Senators from both parties persuaded Frist not to allow the amendment to the Senate version of the supplemental. After it became clear that Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and John Cornyn (R-TX) would "introduce a version of the House restrictions" that would "make it harder for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses or be granted asylum," other Republicans lobbied Frist to exclude such an amendment from the bill, as The New York Times documented on April 12:
A dozen senators of both parties, including Senator Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, sent a letter to Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, on Monday urging him to ensure that the tighter restrictions on illegal immigrants "will not appear in a conference report that returns to the Senate for consideration."
Other news reports similarly indicate that Republicans in the Senate are far from unified on the immigration provisions in the House bill, which include the driver's license ban and more restrictive asylum laws. The Washington Post reported on March 25: "Critics of the House restrictions, including many Senate Republicans, say the curbs would trample states' rights and lead to more unlicensed drivers while ignoring what they believe to be the crux of the problem: the millions of undocumented people already entrenched in the workforce." The Christian Science Monitor reported on April 18 that the "House provisions ... face strong opposition in the Senate on both sides of the aisle." The Times reported on April 20: "The Senate and the House are each leaning toward opposite sides of a debate that divides the Republican Party between populist and cultural conservatives eager to limit immigration and business groups seeking more foreign workers."
Morris repeated many of the same claims about Republicans and immigration in an April 20 op-ed in the New York Post. But unlike on Hannity & Colmes, Morris noted in his column that "some big business Republicans are opposing" the driver's license ban, and asked: "Why are some Republicans trying to derail a measure vital to our national security? Because business interests oppose the legislation, mostly so they can go on hiring illegal immigrants."
From the April 19 edition of Hannity & Colmes:
MORRIS: It's not just the 10 states that permitted illegals to get licenses. The other 40 make no affirmative effort to see if the person who's getting the license has phony I.D. or a phony Social Security card, or in fact, is legally here.
So the bill that's pending now in Congress would require that the states make that effort, and learn that the person is here legally. Now, what happened was that the Republicans know that if they just pass that bill in the House and send it over to the Senate, the Democrats are going to filibuster it and kill the bill. So -- and the Republicans don't have 60 votes to shut off debate on it.
So what they did was last year, they said, "We're going to attach it to the intelligence reform bill, because we know the Democrats don't dare filibuster that."
And [President] Bush and [House Speaker Dennis] Hastert [R-IL] begged them not to. He needed the bill pure. He needed it fast for the election. They said, fine, but next year we want a commitment that we can put it on a bill that can't be filibustered. And they gave it to them.
So now the bill is coming up, the defense appropriations supplemental bill, to pay for the war. The Democrats can't filibuster that, and the Republicans want to attach the amendment banning driver's licenses to that bill. And Frist says, no, he won't let them. He says that he wants to consider the whole subject of immigration as a whole and not deal with it piecemeal.
But that's baloney, because if they attempt to legislate no licenses for illegal aliens by itself, or as part of an immigration measure, the Democrats will filibuster the heck out of this.