Friday, April 4, 2008

"Comprehensive reform" returns? Over at the Washington Post, some hints of a potential return of a debate on "comprehensive immigration reform." The details are pretty spotty, but here are a few:

Earlier this week Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a Democratic point man on the immigration issue, convened a meeting with several of his party's key members to gauge whether a deal is attainable. Becerra was wary of divulging any details of the meeting to Capitol Briefing, saying: "Conversations continue in the effort to try to find a bipartisan compromise that can not just pass the House but also get through the Senate."

Much of the current action focuses on two House bills that are the subjects of discharge petitions, which can force measures onto the chamber floor if they get signatures from 218 members.

The first bill, authored by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), is called the SAVE Act and is strictly concerned with tougher border enforcement and employee verification. The bill has a bipartisan list of 149 cosponsors, and the discharge petition to bring it to the floor had 185 signatures as of Tuesday, nearly all of them from Republicans.

The second key measure is one sponsored by Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) that would allow visas for more seasonal workers, a key priority for the agriculture industry. That discharge petition only has 14 signatures, but the idea has a fair amount of bipartisan support.

The presidential campaign may be clouding the picture. Both Shuler and Stupak have alleged that Republicans are preventing action on their bills because Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a strong supporter of last year's effort to get a comprehensive measure, doesn't want to risk further alienating the GOP base during his White House bid. Republicans have strongly denied those charges.

The Post offers this handy equation:

Border enforcement + high-tech worker visas + seasonal worker visas + legalization of undocumented workers = compromise bill

(H/T: Kaus)