The Immigration Bill Goes Down

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The immigration bill died today in the Senate as only 46 senators voted for cloture, 18 fewer than two days ago.  That’s a big turnaround and can be only partially explained by switches on the part of senators (Bond and Webb) whose amendments were defeated in the interim. I’ll list the switchers in the categories I used to analyze the “no” voters on Tuesday.

Democrats (6): Bingaman, Brown, Harkin, Nelson, Pryor, Webb. The AFL-CIO opposes the bill, and Brown and Harkin are labor stalwarts. Pryor and Bingaman are from states with relatively few immigrants, though Bingaman’s New Mexico has the nation’s highest percentage of Hispanics. Webb’s amendment was defeated 79-14. Nelson, who almost always votes for cloture, has been opposed to the bill all along and decided to vote on substance rather than procedure.

Southern conservatives (3): Burr, McConnell, Warner. Burr’s North Carolina colleague Dole was already strongly against the bill.

Mountain and Plains state conservatives (5): Brownback, Domenici, Ensign, Murkowski, Stevens. Brownback is running for president. Ensign’s amendment was defeated. The other four are from states with relatively low immigration.

Other Republicans (4): Bond, Coleman, Collins, Voinovich.

One other factor is important. The seats of eight of the 18 switchers are up in 2008: Coleman, Collins, Domenici, Harkin, McConnell, Pryor, Stevens, Warner. That leaves the Senate sharply split between those whose seats are up in 2008 and those whose seats are up in 2010 or 2012. The 2008 senators voted 24 to 9 against cloture, with Johnson not voting. The 2010 and 2012 senators voted 37 to 29 for cloture. That’s a pretty stark difference. For an explanation, take a look at Scott Rasmussen’s poll showing just 22 percent of voters in favor of the bill and 50 percent against. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that when senators up in 2008 saw the bill going down they decided to take the popular course and vote no. Of 2008 senators who voted yes, six are Democrats from Democratic states who seem likely to have no serious opposition: Biden, Durbin, Kerry, Lautenberg, Levin, Reed. Three are Republicans from safe Republican states: Craig, Graham, Hagel. But Hagel, assuming he runs again, will face a serious primary opponent, state Attorney General Jon Bruning. And Graham’s job approval rating has plummeted in South Carolina, leading to talk of primary opposition there as well. However, the man tabbed as Graham’s most likely challenger, state Treasurer Thomas Ravenel, has been indicted on cocaine charges.