Byline: Charles Hurt, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The Senate yesterday approved immediately spending nearly $2 billion to stop illegal immigration, the largest such infusion of emergency cash for the effort in recent years.
Nearly every member of the Senate voted in favor of the new spending, but Democrats and Republicans split over whether to find cuts elsewhere in the massive spending bill to offset the border security expenditures. Republicans ultimately prevailed and roughly 3 percent will be cut from defense spending contained in the same bill.
"Porous borders are a threat to our national security, and the Senate has acted today to provide vital funding that will increase our border defenses," Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, said after the vote.
Republicans turned back an effort by Minority Leader Harry Reid to grant the same expenditures for border security but without making cuts elsewhere in the emergency spending bill, which has ballooned to a $106.5 billion proposal. The Nevada Democrat, whose amendment failed on a mostly party-line 54-44 vote, said the Republican amendment would hurt the military.
"Democrats offered a way to secure our borders and support our troops," he said. "Instead, Senate Republicans chose to slash $2 billion desperately needed by our troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in order to offset the costs of additional border security."
Yesterday's action - if approved by the House - would make a comprehensive immigration bill like President Bush wants more difficult to pass through Congress. Border security unites virtually all lawmakers, while the guest-worker program is disliked by liberals who say it creates unfair competition for American workers, and a path to citizenship is disliked by conservatives who view it as amnesty.
The 59-39 vote came one day after Mr. Bush appeared to endorse a Senate proposal that would give many illegal aliens already in the country a path to citizenship.
After meeting at the White House with more than a dozen senators Tuesday, Mr. Bush told reporters that there was a broad and bipartisan consensus for immigration reform legislation that "recognizes we must have a temporary worker program, a bill that does not grant automatic amnesty to people, but a bill that says somebody who is working here on a legal basis has the right to get in line to become a citizen."
By yesterday, however, there was some dispute about whether Mr. Bush had actually endorsed the Senate proposal hatched early this month by Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Mel Martinez of Florida.
Under that plan, illegal aliens who have been in the …