Monday, September 25, 2006

A Dose of Politics: How it Really Works

They were able to pass anti-immigration legislation in the House last week, quite sneakily to add and now they're facing a "standoff" with the Senate.

That's right, Illinois' own, Dennis Hastert (R-14) has vowed to keep a defense policy bill from coming onto the floor if the Senate does not add the anti-immigration provisions that have divided so many.

The anti-immigration bills were added on to a DHS Appropriations bill that outlined the Department of Homeland Security's budget for the following fiscal year.

House-Senate Disagreement Could Halt Defense Bill

By Jonathan Weisman

Washington Post Staff Writer

Monday, September 25, 2006; Page A06

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R.-Ill.) -- in a showdown with Senate Republicans -- has vowed he will not bring a major defense policy bill to the chamber floor this week unless Senate negotiators add a federal court security bill and a controversial House anti-illegal-immigration measure, senior House leadership aides say.

The last-minute confrontation is pitting the House's most powerful member against Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.), who has said he will not add extraneous measures to the annual defense authorization bill unless they can garner unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans alike. House leadership aides are emphasizing the court measure, which would bolster the protection of judges in the aftermath of the shooting of a judge in Atlanta and the killing of a judge's family in Chicago.

The court measure has bipartisan support and is being pushed by Hastert and Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the Senate Democratic leadership's second in command. It authorizes additional funding for U.S. marshals to protect the judiciary, increases penalties for crimes against federal judges, bolsters protections for jurors, and funds security enhancements at state courthouses. Those provisions were included in the Senate's version of the defense policy bill at Democrats' insistence. But support for the measure has begun to fray after House members added a provision that would allow judges to carry concealed weapons.

The real controversy, however, lies with the immigration measure and Hastert's insistence that Warner accept both provisions as a package. The Community Protection Act passed in the House overwhelmingly last week, 328 to 95, but it has garnered opposition from Latino organizations and civil liberties groups.

It would allow the indefinite detention of some illegal immigrants who are protected from deportation by political asylum laws. That provision has garnered interest in the Washington area, with its large community from El Salvador and violence among Salvadoran gangs. The bill also would expedite the removal of immigrant criminals, denying them some court access, and would broaden the definitions of gang violence to facilitate detention and deportation.

Senate Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have said the measure would expand such definitions so broadly that it could hurt legal immigrants, who would be whisked out of the country with little recourse. Warner has deferred to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the Armed Services Committee's ranking Democrat, in refusing to accept the package on the defense policy bill. With only a week left before Congress recesses for the fall campaigns, a showdown could jeopardize the measure's passage.

"The speaker is not going to let the bill move until these critical security items get in," said Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman.

House GOP aides are urging Durbin to bring Senate Democrats into line on the issue. But Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker said the Senate minority whip is feeling no real pressure. The addition of the concealed-weapons provision has soured Durbin on the court security bill, and the immigration bill is garnering strong Democratic opposition, he said.


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