White House Counts on Kyl; Immigration Debate Revived
Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
For two years, the White House thought the chances of getting an immigration bill passed in Congress lay with Arizona's Republican senator. Unfortunately for President Bush, he was counting on the wrong one.
While the White House was working with Sen. John McCain, Arizona's other senator, Jon Kyl, emerged this year as the most important player in the immigration debate, showing that even as the Congress has grown more liberal with Democrats in control, the immigration debate has shifted to the right.
It's also a recognition that as Mr. Kyl goes, so go a number of Republicans.
"If it's good enough for Kyl, it's going to be good enough for a lot of conservatives," said Rep. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican and one of the top House lawmakers pressing for a bill this year.
The debate starts today when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is expected to use a parliamentary procedure to resurrect one of last year's bills. His move is designed to pressure Republicans to get something done, but they said they can't meet the deadline.
Mr. Kyl is leading a group of Republicans working with the White House, two Cabinet secretaries and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Democrats' leader on immigration, to try to write a tough and workable bill.
"There's only one way that there's going to be legislation adopted this year, and that's in a bipartisan way," Mr. Kyl said yesterday, warning that Mr. Reid's move could "break up any chance" for such an agreement.
Mr. Kyl has been involved in the immigration debate for years, with a reputation for being on the pro-enforcement side of the issue. Last year, along with Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, he championed a middle-of-the road bill that included a guest-worker program but did not allow most current or future illegal aliens a path to citizenship.
But Mr. Bush went the other direction, embracing a bill championed by Mr. Kennedy and Mr. McCain that offered a path to citizenship to illegal aliens and future guest workers, which most Republicans deemed "amnesty."
That bill passed the Senate 62-36 with mostly Democratic support but stalled in the House.
Mr. Kyl was pushed to the periphery - so much so that he and Mr. Cornyn weren't invited to the White House for the April 25, 2006, meeting at which Mr. …