Garrett claimed that Richardson's call to Reid supports GOP charge that Reid "sabotaged" immigration bill

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

Fox News' Major Garrett claimed that Republican charges that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) "sabotaged" a recent immigration reform compromise "took deeper root" when The Denver Post reported that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson (D) "phoned Reid and advised him to kill the compromise the day it was announced." Garrett offered no explanation for his claim. In fact, rather than opposing the Hagel-Martinez compromise, Reid and most other Senate Democrats voted to advance it in the Senate.

On the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, correspondent Major Garrett claimed that Republican charges that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "sabotaged" a recent immigration reform compromise "took deeper root" when The Denver Post reported that New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) "phoned Reid and advised him to kill the compromise the day it was announced by Republicans Mel Martinez of Florida and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska." Garrett offered no explanation for his claim that Richardson's phone call supported Republican allegations that Reid "sabotaged" the compromise. In fact, rather than opposing the Hagel-Martinez compromise, Reid and most other Democrats voted to advance it in the Senate.

Excerpts of news reports about Richardson's phone call appeared in an April 21 Republican National Committee press release.

In March, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which, among other things, would grant permanent legal residency and a path to "earned citizenship" to the nation's approximately 11 million illegal immigrants. Reid, along with most Senate Democrats, backed the Judiciary Committee bill. At an April 6 press conference, Hagel, Martinez and a bipartisan group of senators (including Reid) announced a compromise that would allow most illegal immigrants to earn citizenship but would exclude more recent arrivals.

From the April 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

GARRETT: Reid has tried for two weeks to deflect GOP criticism that he sabotaged the immigration compromise. But those charges took deeper root when it was learned that New Mexico's Democratic governor, Bill Richardson, phoned Reid and advised him to kill the compromise the day it was announced by Republicans Mel Martinez of Florida and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. According to The Denver Post, Richardson left this message on Reid's cell phone: "I don't like this Hagel-Martinez initiative. It's sort of half a loaf. Let's hold fast." Reid aides said Richardson's call had no impact on the party's immigration strategy.

As Garrett himself reported on April 7, the compromise died because of a dispute over "[h]ow many votes to have on amendments." As Garrett noted, Democrats, led by Reid, refused to allow votes on many Republican-sponsored amendments that Democrats "said were designed solely to undermine the bill." President Bush subsequently accused Reid of "single-handedly thwarting" immigration reform.

But Garrett offered no evidence to support his April 24 assertion that reports about Richardson's phone call lent support to Republican accusations that Reid "sabotaged" the bill. A search* of the Nexis database reveals that prior to Garrett's report, Richardson's April 6 phone call had been mentioned only in the April 16 Denver Post article cited by Garrett, an April 19 Albuquerque Tribune article, and April 20 and April 23 Albuquerque Journal articles (subscription or viewing of ad required). None of these articles cited the call as evidence that Reid "sabotaged" the bill.

In the April 23 Journal article, reporter Michael Coleman wrote that Reid spokesman Jim Manley "said the immigration deal in the Senate fell apart because of disagreements on the number of amendments that could be offered, not because of the Hagel-Martinez deal, which Reid fully supported."

Manley's claim that Reid "fully supported" the Hagel-Martinez compromise is reinforced by the fact that Reid voted to advance it in the Senate. As Congressional Quarterly Today noted on April 7, Reid was one of 38 Democrats who voted for a cloture motion that would have instructed the Judiciary Committee to adopt the Hagel-Martinez compromise bill:

Republicans defeated an attempt to invoke cloture, or limit debate, on a comprehensive compromise proposal that was hailed as a "huge breakthrough" 24 hours earlier by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The vote was 38-60.

[...]

Frist asked his caucus to oppose cloture on the compromise moments after he and Reid could not reach agreement on how many amendments could be offered to it for floor votes. That same impasse has stalled debate for nearly two weeks.

The breakdown came just a day after the two leaders stood together with more than a dozen senators from both parties, praising the broad outlines of a compromise. The plan, based on a proposal by Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Mel Martinez, R-Fla., would strengthen border security, create a temporary guest worker program and provide a path to U.S. citizenship for most of the illegal immigrants now in the United States.

The floor impasse pits Republicans who want to offer amendments to the compromise against the deal's Democratic supporters, who want to preserve the language as it stands now.

In an April 7 floor statement supporting the cloture motion, Reid said that "[v]irtually all Democrats support" the Hagel-Martinez compromise. Reid accused Republican leaders of permitting a "filibuster by amendment":

REID: The amendment before us does what we need of an immigration bill. An immigration bill will secure our borders, crack down on employers who break the law, and allow us to find who is living here by giving 12 million undocumented workers a reason to come out of the darkness, out of the shadows, pay a fine, undergo a background check, stay out of trouble, have a job, pay the penalties, and become legal when their number is called, even though it is many years from now.

Americans have demonstrated literally in the streets for a bill like this. They have spoken. It is up to the majority to answer their call. If tough, comprehensive immigration reform fails to move forward, it will be the Republicans' burden to bear. Virtually all Democrats supported the Specter bill [the Judiciary Committee bill, introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)] that came before the Senate. Virtually all Democrats support the Martinez substitute. So the majority must explain to the American people why they are permitting a filibuster of immigration legislation, a filibuster by amendment.

The suggestion that Richardson's April 6 phone call convinced Reid to sabotage the Hagel-Martinez compromise by blocking Republican amendments is further undermined by the fact that Reid opposed the Republicans' amendments before the compromise even existed. As the Associated Press reported on April 4, Reid had previously blocked similar Republican attempts to amend the Judiciary Committee's immigration reform bill on the Senate floor:

For their part, Democrats made a show of support for legislation that emerged from the Judiciary Committee more than a week ago. It provides for tightened border security, an increase in the number of temporary workers allowed in the country, and allowing illegal immigrants to apply for citizenship after they meet several conditions, including the payment of fines and any back taxes and passing a background check.

Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, blocked numerous attempts by Republicans during the day to hold votes on selected amendments. "We do not need a compromise. It's in our bill," he told reporters. He set the stage for a test vote on Thursday, but supporters will need 60 votes to prevail.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said the leadership was "trying to preserve a strong bipartisan bill" and didn't want to have it watered down before any later compromise talks with the House.

Republicans loudly accused Reid of attempting to hijack the proceedings by refusing to allow votes, and privately, some Democrats acknowledged they did not want to expose their rank and file to difficult choices.

* Nexis search of "News, All (English, Full Text)" for Reid and Richardson and immigra! and (Hagel or Martinez or half a loaf or hold fast).

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.