This article from Congress Daily gives a bit of background on Bush’s meeting with GOP senators earlier yesterday:
President Bush met with Republican senators this afternoon to try to persuade more of them to support a comprehensive immigration bill that he called “the best way to enforce our border.” In brief remarks after the weekly policy luncheon, Bush said he hoped Majority Leader Reid would bring the bill to the floor again, despite falling 15 votes short of ending debate and holding a vote last week. “Now is the time to get it done,” Bush said. Reid has said he would allow more floor time for the immigration bill if Republicans demonstrate that they can deliver the votes. Last week, only seven Republicans voted with most Democrats to move to a vote, a number the Democrats say is unacceptable. While Bush was expressing what Senate Minority Leader McConnell said were his “strongly held views,” there was no indication he changed enough minds to make a difference.
Still, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow sounded a note of optimism, saying most of the major provisions have passed with more than the necessary 60 votes. “Last week’s vote on cloture was opposed by a number of Republicans, not because they opposed the bill but because they opposed shutting off debate,” Snow said. “They thought that it was important to consider further amendments.”
To that end, Senate Republican negotiators were close to agreeing on the number of amendments they want to bring up and could present that list to Reid as early as this evening, a GOP leadership aide said today. The negotiators will meet at 5 p.m.
to craft the list, which is expected to be in the range of 10 to 20 amendments. Democrats would be allowed an equal number of amendments under the emerging deal. The Republican list would likely include amendments dealing with enhanced enforcement triggers, an earlier “touchback” requirement for illegal immigrants seeking legal status, and a “fix” to an amendment that passed last week by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to sunset the bill’s guestworker program. GOP aides said if Reid accepts their debate terms, the Republican votes are there to support another cloture motion to stop a filibuster on the immigration debate. But some of the amendments, if approved, might dissolve the fragile coalition that cobbled together the compromise legislation. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., said last week’s 15-vote deficit on the failed cloture motion does not reflect the will of the Republican Party. He pointed to another vote rejecting an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to strike the legalization provisions, which would have killed the deal. On that vote, 26 Republicans voted to sustain the immigration compromise. — by Ben Schneider, Keith Koffler and Fawn Johnson