April 2, 2006
On CBS's Face the Nation today, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, widely reviled as a mean-spirited Republican, or even mocked as a Nazi, for his bill that would raise penalties on those who violate immigration laws, came across as very reasonable and sincere. Sen. Dick Durbin, who compared the U.S. treatment of detainees to Nazi Germany, came across as cynical. You can tell the Democrats are licking their chops as the Republicans beat each other up over this vexing issue. Sensenbrenner pointed out that he introduced an amendment to reduce penalties for those abetting illegal immigration from a felony to a misdemeanor, but it was voted down by Democrats and some Republicans. That was one of those too-clever parliamentary maneuvers, no doubt, but it also sheds light on what Sensenbrenner is trying to accomplish. That unduly harsh provision is obviously meant as a bargaining chip when it comes time for the House and Senate conferees to work out a compromise. Can they get together? Much like the situation in the Virginia General Assembly, where the Republicans in the Senate are at cross purposes with the Republicans in the House of Delegates, it depends on the party's own leaders. In the case of the U.S. Congress, much also depends the leadership of President Bush, which has been pretty weak lately.