On Immigration, Poison Pills Or Booster Shots?

In his speech to La Raza today, Sen. McCain blames Barack Obama in part for derailing the 2007 attempt at comprehensive immigration reform by larding up the bill with poison pill amendments.

I cast a lot of hard votes, as did the other Republicans and Democrats who joined our bipartisan effort. So did Senator Kennedy. I took my lumps for it without complaint. My campaign was written off as a lost cause. I did so not just because I believed it was the right thing to do for Hispanic Americans. It was the right thing to do for all Americans. Senator Obama declined to cast some of those tough votes. He voted for and even sponsored amendments that were intended to kill the legislation, amendments that Senator Kennedy and I voted against. I never ask for any special privileges from anyone just for having done the right thing. Doing my duty to my country is its own reward. But I do ask for your trust that when I say, I remain committed to fair, practical and comprehensive immigration reform, I mean it. I think I have earned that trust.

One of the provisions McCain denounces was actually supported by La Raza and other pro "reform" immigration groups -- the amendment that would have ended the new "point system" program for visa criteria after five years.

The other amendments were:

1. A provision to sunset the guest worker program after five years. (Did not pass.)
2. Another attempt to sunset nonimmigrant, nonagricultural worker visa program. (This passed by one vote.) It was considered a poison pill by some,
which sunsets the Y-1 “temporary” nonimmigrant nonagricultural worker program five years after enactment,
3. A provision removing the requirement that guest workers (those holding "Y" visas) leave the country for a year before they could renew their visas. (This failed.)
4. A measure to halve the size of the guest worker progam -- this passed with 74 votes.

McCain says these were poison pill amendments, but an AP article cited by the campaign to buttress this characterization is headlined: “Immigration Deal Survives Senate Challenges, Backers Cautiously Optimistic." True, these amendments were proposed over the warnings of the bill's backers, but amendments usually are, and at least one of them passed overwhelmingly.