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Immigration Debate: Three up, Three down

The fallout from last night's crushing blow to the Senate's immigration legislation is being felt across the political landscape, affecting everything from the chamber's calendar for the remainder of the year to the 2008 presidential campaign season and next year's congressional racesl.

The failed vote to move toward final passage was obviously a big setback for President Bush, whose advisers viewed this as possibly his last big domestic legislative initiative. And it was a blow to the senatorial stewardship of Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who has now filed 36 of these "cloture motions" in five months to try to thwart filibusters of legislation he supports. [He's now lost on a dozen cloture votes, suffering almost as many defeats as the number of cloture motions Republicans had filed at this point in the previous, 109th Congress - 13.]

This puts Reid on pace to file more than 140 cloture motions in the 110th Congress, which would utterly shatter the record of 82 cloture votes from N.D.): the 104th Congress. If Reid somehow resuscitates the immigration bill and gets it passed into law, that would be a huge victory, but those are some long odds right now.

But the immigration debate was about much more than just the leadership of the president and the top senator.

Here's a quick look at some winners and losers from the weeks-long negotiations and floor debate, three folks who ended on an up note and three who ended on a down note:


• Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.): He may have earned some serious enmity from the leadership with his maneuvering on the amendment to twilight an immigrant worker program after five years. But as Shailagh Murray illustrated in today's Washington Post, Dorgan was the mastermind behind the plot to secure flip-flop votes by Republicans on his amendment. It may not have pleased Reid, but Dorgan's move was widely supported by big labor unions, earning him serious chits with one of his party's most important blocs.
• John McCain (R-Ariz.): Yes, you read that right. McCain may have been one of the architects of this bill, but Capitol Briefing doesn't like conventional wisdom. We say this here: the bill was killing McCain on the presidential campaign trail, as The Fix explained on Tuesday, and having this bill die now is far better than if it passed the Senate next week. Had it passed, then the House would have passed its version in late July, and the House-Senate conference on immigration would have dominated the headlines throughout the fall - constantly reminding the conservative voters of McCain's position on immigration. He won because he lost last night.
• Sen. DeSesyn (R-S.C./Ala./Texas): Sorry, that's a made up name, but basically Jim DeMint (S.C.), Jeff Sessions (Ala.) and John Cornyn (Texas) were the Republicans who did the most to beat this bill. They've earned incredible good will among their conservative base and are now the unqualified conservative movement leaders in the chamber.


• Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.): There was all sorts of high praise for the 44-year Senate veteran when the deal was announced before the Memorial Day recess, winning kudos from even hard-core partisans like Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.). It was supposed to be another example of Kennedy's magic, that no big domestic legislation can pass without his imprimatur on it. Well, the deal blew up and, in the end, nearly a quarter of his fellow Democrats abandoned Kennedy on the cloture vote last night.
• Jon Kyl (R-Ariz): Kyl was hailed as the conservative yin to Kennedy's liberal yang on this deal, but Kyl had far more to lose as his conservative base had looked to him in recent years as an emerging leader of their movement. The right was stunned when he signed on with Kennedy, and, with the legislation failing, Kyl's image takes an even bigger hit.
• Karl Rove: Alright, alright, he's not even in the Senate. But, no recent political figure had put more emphasis on turning the Latino voting bloc into a reliable supporter of Republicans than Bush's top political adviser. While the Latino vote is still relatively small now, Rove has long believed that it will surpass the black vote in numbers in the next decade or so; he had hoped to make Bush a transitional figure among Latinos, the man whose religiousness meshed well with the largely Catholic Hispanic voters and who would deliver immigration legislation that they would give him credit for. That now appears highly unlikely, and Rove's long-term efforts to make Latinos a GOP voting group were dealt a serious blow.

By Paul Kane  |  June 8, 2007; 4:40 PM ET
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