Jonathan Chait

Country First

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The Washington Post looks at the 11 Republican Senators who supported comprehensive immigration reform under George W. Bush but refuse to do so now:

Some of the 11 senators whose support is critical to his plans signaled Thursday that they are not ready to back reform this time around. They also denied that they had changed their positions for political reasons.

Laena Fallon, a spokeswoman for Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), said the senator is interested in fixing the immigration system. But she added that he had made it clear he "does not support any initiative promoting comprehensive reform until the president and this administration get serious about controlling our borders."

Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.), said the senator thinks it is simply the wrong moment for reform. "There really is not the political landscape to proceed with it at this time," he said.

Other minor legislation, designed to legalize those who came to the United States as children and then enrolled in U.S. colleges, "could potentially be doable this year," the spokesman said.

Sen. Robert F. Bennett (Utah) also said further border enforcement had to come first. "The president needs to work with Congress on a step-by-step approach, focusing first on securing our borders and then establishing a temporary worker program," he said.

Other Republicans sympathetic to the cause now have other priorities. Sen. John McCain, a past supporter, faces a tough battle in his Arizona primary. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who had been working with Democrats on a draft reform bill earlier in the year, has now said that Congress should prioritize other issues such as Wall Street reform.

Those are some pretty sorry excuses. My favorite is Graham. A few weeks ago, he opposed immigration reform because he wanted to focus on climate legislation. Now he's abandoned climate legislation, and his reason for opposing immigration reform is Wall Street reform, which A) is almost finished, and B) Graham opposes anyway.

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