This is a rush transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from June 7, 2007.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the immigration bill, given up for dead last night, lives on as leaders in both parties work feverishly to revive its chances. The house passes an embryonic stem cell bill, but it faces a certain veto. And new science suggests this kind of research may not be needed. We'll explain. The president finally has his face to face with Vladimir Putin. The outcome may surprise you. Is Syria arming itself for war with Israel? There is r eason to wonder. Plus, is Iowa fading in presidential campaign politics? All that right here, right now. Welcome to Washington. I'm Brit Hume. The death watch continues for another night over the immigration reform bill in the Senate. In the last 24 hours, the bill has appeared on the verge of failure a number of times, but on each occasion Senate negotiators pulled it back from the brink. Congressional correspondent Major Garrett has been out late and up early following the story.
SEN. TRENT LOTT ®, MISSISSIPPI: If we can't do this, we ought to vote to dissolve the Congress and go home and wait for the next election. Can we do anything any more?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: We have a real opportunity to see the beginning of a light at the end of tunnel.
MAJOR GARRETT, FOX NEWS CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the help of an unlikely alliance of Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy and Mississippi Republican Trent Lott, the Senate immigration bill, more despised than loved, appeared to dodge the legislative graveyard for at least one more day, even as more evidence surfaced of public skepticism. The latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed 58 percent support enforcement of existing laws. Only 34 percent back an overhaul of immigration laws along the lines of the Senate compromise. Senators worked through yesterday night and into the wee hours of this morning. Tempers flared at times over a move to sunset the bill's guest worker program after five years. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who trades on the ethos of bipartisanship, pushed hard for the sun setting language, drawing the ire of South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham.
LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: When you are out there on the campaign trail, you are trying to bring us all together. You're trying to make America better. Why can't we work together? This is why we can't work together. Because some people, when it comes to the tough decisions, back away.
GARRETT: Obama, carrying the torch for organized labor against the temporary worker program, fired back.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: The notion that somehow that guts the bill or destroys the bill is simply disingenuous. And it's engaging in the sort of histrionics that is entirely inappropriate for this debate.
GARRETT: The sun setting narrowly approved sun setting the temporary worker program, aggravating big business and jeopardizing current Republican support for the entire bill. Today, silent hours of inaction meandered as senators tried to negotiate a path toward final passage, amid the time wasting drone of the call of the roll.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Alexander?
GARRETT: The so-called grand immigration compromise seeks tougher border security, temporary legalization of an estimated 12 million illegals here now, and a guest worker program with verifiable employment records. But as the bill lost momentum, Democrats began to prepare for it to die, preemptively declaring the bipartisan compromise a White House product.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: This is the president's bill. This is not a bill that we came up with.
GARRETT: There is a sense among Republican and Democratic aides that this immigration bill is already dead. All that is missing is the legislative eulogy. But at this hour, Brit, Republicans are working strenuously to try to fix some flaws in the bill and create a pathway to have amendments, debated and voted on, so final passage can occur sometime before Friday. Even so, prospects for final passage at this hour appear dim indeed. Brit?
HUME: OK Major, thank you. While newspaper headlines were touting a significant break through in stem-cell research, House Democrats today won passage of a bill easing restrictions on using taxpayer money for embryonic stem-cell research. The measure failed to gain enough votes to overcome a certain veto by the president. National correspondent Catherine Herridge reports.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: On this vote the yeahs are 247. The nays are 176. The bill is passed.
CATHERINE HERRIDGE, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The vote in favor of expanding federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research came after two hours of heated debate on the House floor.
REP. MIKE PENCE ®, INDIANA: And liberals in this Congress are not content simply to have embryonic stem-cell research legal in all 50 states. They want pro-life Americans like me to get our wallets out and finance it. And I'm not having that.
HERRIDGE: Congresswoman Diana Degette, whose daughter suffers from diabetes, shepherded the bill through the House for Democrats. On the floor, she and other lawmakers anticipated what many expect will be the president's second veto on the issue.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: The Senate gets it. The public gets it. The House gets it. Why doesn't the president of the United States get it?
HERRIDGE: The bill would allow federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells, derived from human embryos which would otherwise be destroyed. These human embryos would come from fertility clinics and couples who no longer want them to conceive a child.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH ®, NEW JERSEY: You're talking about spare embryos now, but if it ever did work, especially when we have an ethical alternative that does work, but if it ever did work, it would mean requiring the killing of millions of embryos.
HERRIDGE: Leading up to this debate, Republicans successfully blocked a separate bill by Democrats. Although it banned human cloning for reproductive purposes, critics claimed it was really a backdoor effort to allow cloning for other reasons, such as embryonic stem-cell research. On the House floor, critics saying embryonic stem cell research was overblown, other avenues are more promising.
REP. DAVE WELDON ®, FLORIDA: Embryonic stem cells have never moved beyond animal research because embryonic stem cells have never been shown to be safe. Embryonic stem cells form tumors when you put them in animals.
HERRIDGE: Throughout the debate, both Republicans and Democrats pointed to new discoveries announced this week by the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Scientists there created embryonic stem cells without through embryos, through experiments on mice skin cells.
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS ®, TEXAS: And science is resolving and providing answers to this ethical dilemma.
DEGETTE: It is true that embryonic stem-cell research is relatively new. However, these other sources that are opponents tout are even newer and have provided no evidence and no hope for cures.
HERRIDGE: Neither the House nor the Senate has the votes necessary to override a presidential veto. In a strongly worded statement from the White House, the president said, if the bill were to become law, quote, American taxpayers would, for the first time in our history, be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. And for that reason alone, the president will veto the bill. Brit?
HUME: Catherine, thank you. A federal judge in Virginia has frozen the assets of Louisiana Democratic Congressman Bill Jefferson, who faces charges that he solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. The restraining order listed by the district judge, T.S. Ellis (ph), lists two savings accounts with a combined volume of more than 470,000 dollars. And it bars Jefferson from liquidating certain stock holdings. He is scheduled for arraignment tomorrow in U.S. district court. Later in our program, could escalating tensions between Syria and Israel lead to a war, or maybe peace? And next, President Bush and Vladimir Putin try to deescalate the tension between Moscow and Washington. That report straight ahead.
HUME: At the G8 summit in Germany, the agenda includes economic issues, poverty reduction, intellectual property rights in Africa, but a significant amount of attention instead is on the strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia. Today, President Bush and President Putin appeared ready to try to find a way forward. Chief White House correspondent Wendell Goler has that story from Rostock, Germany.
WENDELL GOLER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After weeks of tough talk, the two presidents emerged from their first summit session like school boys caught fighting on the playground.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are a lot of people who don't like it when Russia and the United States argue, and it creates tensions.
GOLER: But while both played down their differences, they were far from agreement. Mr. Putin suggested upgrading a Soviet era radar site in Azerbaijani as a substitute for the missile shield the U.S. wants to build in central Europe.
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): And, in this case, the system which is to be constructed can cover not only part of Europe, but the entire Europe.
GOLER: A look at a map suggests the Azerbaijani site might better target missiles from Iran than the one the U.S. proposes in the Czech Republic, but experts say that is not necessarily the case. Putin says using Azerbaijan would let him take back his threat to re-aim Russian missiles at Europe.
PUTIN: This will make it possible for us not to change our stance on targeting our missiles.
GOLER: President Bush promised to study the idea, but aides said privately he considered the Azerbaijani site a possible supplement, not a replacement for the Czech site the U.S. wants to build. There was more agreement among the leader on the issue of climate change. A commitment to decide over the next year and a half on what they called substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, which gave summit host Angela Merkel a chance to declare success.
ANGELA MERKEL, GERMAN CHANCELLOR (through translator): We managed to agree that we need reduction goals, obligatory reduction goals.
GOLER: But the leaders did not endorse the 50 percent reduction target Merkel originally wanted, and which the U.S. opposed. Green Peace members tried to deliver a letter to the Baltic Sea resort where the summit is being held, urging the leaders to set a target despite American pressure not to. But a German Navy boat literally ran over their inflatable. Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Merkel's target is the eventual goal.
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What you have got is a sense that a substantial cut in emissions is of the order of the halving of emissions.
GOLER: Like President Bush, Blair believes you can't set targets without including the leaders of the countries which will soon produce most of the world's greenhouse gases, China and India, which is why Mr. Bush says the summit agreement compliments the proposal he made last week for global talks to decide how much to cut greenhouse gases over the next year and a half.
BUSH: I view our role is a bridge between people in Europe and others and India and China. And if you want them at the table, it is important to give them an opportunity to set an international goal.
GOLER: The leaders here shift their focus to African aid tomorrow, the final day of the summit. U2's Bono has been here, urging the G8 to make good on its two year old commitment to double aid to the continent. He says the U.S. is doing pretty good. The others seven countries need to catch up. Brit?
HUME: Wendell, thanks very much. By the way, as for those Green Peace protesters in the boat, they got wet, but they didn't get hurt. Is another Middle East war this the offering? Syria now has in its arsenal 20,000 missiles that could be launched at Israel and the Israeli military is practicing for raids on Syrian villages. As national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin reports, some intelligence analysts say the two countries may be talking themselves into armed conflict as early as July.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A series of Israeli war games exercises this week raised alarm bells in Damascus. Israeli commandos stormed a mock Syrian village. It's the first time in years the military built a Syrian, rather than a Palestinian, village to practice house to house fighting. The border along the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria is becoming increasingly tense. Escalating Syrian arms purchases have Israel's military intelligence concerned. For example, reports of a pending deal with Russia to provide 50 Pantsyr S1 E short range gun and missile air defense systems to Syria at a cost of 730 million dollars.
DAVID SCHENKER, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: The interesting thing about this sale is that it is being funded by Iran. In exchange, Iran will get 10 of these 50 weapons themselves.
GRIFFIN: The Russians have denied the deal.
SERGEI IVANOV, RUSSIAN FIRST DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Syria has submitted no request to Russia, not for the Pantsyr or for even a single bullet.
GRIFFIN: But U.S. and Israeli intelligence have noticed Syrian troop movement near the Golan Heights, and an unprecedented surge in Syrian arms purchases, short-range ground to ground missiles, advanced anti-tank missiles, and precision guided short range rockets. Syria now has about 20,000 rockets, most purchased from Russia, many of them with a range that could strike anywhere in Israel. On September 12th, Cyprus confiscated radar systems and air defense equipment from a ship originating from China and North Korea, en route to Syria. On May 30th, Turkish authorities seized a rocket launch pad and 300 rockets hidden in construction materials on a Syrian bound train from Iran. Israel and Syria have been in a state of war since 1967 when Israel captured the Golan Height. And war rhetoric from Israeli generals and Syrian officials is adding to the current tension. During the Israeli war games, Major General Gabi Ashkenazi said the army is preparing for a, quote, deterioration on Israel's northern front. When he took over as army chief of staff this year, he said he wanted Israel's military to be ready for war by this summer. On Tuesday, a Syrian parliament member said Syria expects a war this summer and is preparing, a statement Syria's ambassador to Washington denied today.
IMAD MOUSTAPHA, SYRIAN AMBASSADOR TO US: If we purchase arms, we purchase arms just out of precaution, trying to prevent Israel from thinking of attacking us. Having said this, our policy is a very clear policy. We want to make peace. We invite Israel to stop its policies of foreign aggression.
GRIFFIN: Both sides are worried a miscalculation could back them into a war.
GRIFFIN: Ironically, all of this talk of war could have the opposite effect and push the two side to talk of peace. In fact, Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, said this week that he would be interested in resuming peace talks with Syria. And Syria's ambassador to Washington told me today his country was ready to do the same. Those talks, of course, Brit, have been frozen for the past seven years. Brit?
HUME: Jennifer, thank you. The White House says that North Korea's missile test activity is, quote, not constructive and Pyongyang should focus on dismantling its nuclear program. The comment came after a report that North Korea fired at least one test missile off its west coast into the Yellow Sea, which lies between the Korean Peninsula and China. It was said to be a short-range missile, not nuclear armed, and therefore not covered by a moratorium on long-range testing. Still ahead on SPECIAL REPORT, while some bow out of the Iowa straw poll, one Republican in particular is running well there. But first, President Bush's nominee to be the new war czar has doubts about the capability of the Iraqi government. We'll have that report next.
HUME: President Bush's nominee to be the so-called "war czar", that is General Douglas Lute, did not sound too confident today when it comes the Iraqi government's ability to take charge of that country. Lute also told senators on Capitol Hill that it is still too early to judge the success of the troop surge. Chief White House correspondent Bret Baier reports.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In his Senate confirmation hearing to become the president's war advisor, Army Lieutenant General Douglas Lute confirmed he voiced doubts about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq before the plan was rolled out in January, saying at the time that it would only be successful with equal surges from the Iraqi government. Lute told senators today, so far, Iraqi participation has been uneven at best.
LT. GEN. DOUGLAS LUTE, WAR ADVISER NOMINEE: Early results are mixed. Condition on the ground are deeply complex and likely to continue to evolve.
BAIER: That prompted a firm response from both Democrats and Republicans.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: How much more time should we give after four years in Iraq? Baghdad is burning while the Iraqi politicians avoid accepting responsibility for their country's future.
SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA: Wake up. We are paying a heavy price for them to establish this government.
BAIER: But Lute expressed serious concerns about the Iraqi government's currents ability to take control of the country, no matter how much pressure is applied by the U.S.
LUTE: The question in my mind is not to what extent can we force them or lever them to a particular outcome, but rather to what degree do they actually have the capacity themselves to produce that outcome. And if produced or if pressed too hard, will we in turn end up with an outcome that isn't really worth the paper it's written on.
BAIER: A grim assessment of Iraqi capability at a time when Congress and the American public are growing increasingly impatient. In a poll released today, only 28 percent of Americans surveyed were satisfied with the president's handling of the war, down five percentage points in one month. Most Democrats on the committee used their time to criticize the president for creating Lute's new position, which they called a duplication of National Security Advisor Steven Hadley's job.
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: I presume you will be reporting to Mr. Hadley?
LUTE: No, sir, I would be reporting to the president and coordinating with Mr. Hadley.
REED: And Mr. Hadley will be reporting to the president?
LUTE: On matters outside of Iraq Afghanistan. Yes, sir.
REED: Afghanistan, Iraq and, related to that, Iran, are the most critical foreign policy problems we face. And the national security advisor of United States has taken his hands off that and given it to you? Is that your understanding?
LUTE: Sir, that's the design, yes.
REED: Well, he should be fired.
BAIER: After a brief recess, General Lute wanted to clarify his comments.
LUTE: Steve Hadley remains in all of his capacities the national security advisor. His role is not diminished by this appointment or this designed position.
BAIER: Lute added that if confirmed he will augment Hadley's position and join him as a, quote, teammate. Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin said General Lute's confirmation is all but certain, but said how much Lute can help with the president's policy on Iraq is less so. Brit?
HUME: OK, Bret, thank you, my friend. A former United Nations procurement official has been convicted of bribery, wire fraud and mail fraud. Sanjay Bahel (ph) was accused of helping a friend win 100 million dollars worth of U.N. contracts in exchange for luxury digs in Manhattan and cash. Correspondent Eric Shawn is standing by at the U.N. with more. Hi Eric.
ERIC SHAWN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brit, we are at the federal courthouse where this conviction came down today. It took only four hours. And tonight another former United Nations official is behind bars. This as the United Nations admits it is probing possible fraud and corruption in 100 billion dollars worth of contracts and that they have already found fraud and waste in millions of dollars. The official is Sanjay Bahel. He was a top official of the United Nations Procurement Department. And he was convicted of trying to steer 100 million dollars worth of U.N. business to a friend's company in exchange for a high-rise mid-town Manhattan apartment worth several million dollars, as well as cell phones to carry out the scheme, cash filled envelops and first-class airplane tickets. The person who testified against him was Meshawn Coley (ph), a Florida businessman who cooperated and pled guilty to bribery. Coley said he rented and sold the apartment at below market rate. He also testified that he provided prostitutes and paid six grand to a strip club, hotel rooms and hookers for other U.N. procurement officials to get U.N. business. Lawyers involved in the corruption cases at the U.N. says this case shows that U.N. officials will face justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL RAKOWER, ATTORNEY: The message clear, if you are a high-ranking U.N. official, you cannot hide behind a cloak of immunity. You will be held accountable for your actions. And if you committee wrong doing, you will be pushed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAWN: In a statement, Secretary General Ban Ki Moon reacted, praising the investigator, saying he is "satisfied justice has been served in continuing these investigations. The United Nations stands read to cooperate with law enforcement authorities," and he said, "remains committed to actively pursing any fraud and wrong doing at the United Nations." U.N. officials said they have taken some reforms, are investigating 140 separate cases of possible wrongdoing. But that when it comes to the corruption, it's not the U.N.'s fault, but the fault of some people who work there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT APPLETON, UN PROCUREMENT TASK FORCE CHIEF: The U.N. is a victim from in a number of these cases, in which they are preyed upon by companies and vendors who seek to achieve contracts any way they can get them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHAWN: Well, Bahel will be sentenced in September. He faces up to 30 years in prison as the investigations and the federal Grand Jury here continue their work. Brit?
HUME: Thank you very much Eric. Sorry I got your location wrong. We've got to take a break to pay our bills and update the other headlines. When we come back, a noted leftist, or at least liberal journalist, criticizes some bloggers on the farther left for what he calls lunacy. Don't miss this. That story is next on the Grapevine.
HUME: Another nick, if not a deadly cut was delivered today to the Iowa Straw Poll, once a significant marker in presidential primary campaigns. Republican Jim Gilmore, one of the lowest polling candidates, said he will skip the event. Rudy Giuliani and John McCain have also decided to take a pass, but one leading Republican sees an opportunity in the Hawkeye State. Correspondent Steve Brown has the latest from Iowa.
CHUCK LAUDNER, EXECUTIVE DIR IOWA REPUBLICAN PARTY: It's kind of a quick exit.
STEVE BROWN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chuck Laudner, executive director of Republican Party of Iowa put it in Iraq terms. He says yesterday's , first by Rudy Giuliani and then by John McCain to skip the party's Straw Poll event in August amounts to a withdrawal plan from Iowa.
LAUDNER: The Giuliani campaign never really had a deep investment in Iowa. And then, you know, McCain skipped Iowa this '99. So, you know, I didn't think—I don't think surprise, but certainly disappointed.
BROWN: The precaucus event held in this arena is Ames, is a huge party fundraiser expected to draw 40,000 Iowa Republicans, all voting in an early, although unofficial, show of strength among the Republican presidential hopefuls. Critics have called the Straw Poll a manufactured political event. And today, another GOP White House candidate, Jim Gilmore, says his campaign will also skip the straw poll to focus on the actual caucuses five months later. The Straw Poll defection of has candidate Mitt Romney claiming victory.
MITT ROMNEY ®, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Both have withdrawn from the Ames Straw Poll and - yes, and the head of the part—yes—and the head of the Ames Straw—excuse me, the head of Republican Party of Iowa said: I guess they saw the handwriting on the wall. Well, they're going to see more handwriting on wall like that, we're going to go on it win this nomination and this presidency.
BROWN: A Romney internal poll, suggests a dramatic surge in Iowa over the last two months from trailing Giuliani to a 2-1 advantage over the entire GOP field. Republicans here acknowledge he has the best Iowa organization, spending lots of time in Republican-rich areas, like Sioux County in western Iowa.
MARK LUNDBERG, SIOUX COUNTY GOP CHAIRMAN: His staff is on the ground possibly two years ago with the pack working with counties and leadership and so he's been all over the place numerous times.
BROWN: Now perhaps entering the fray in Iowa soon is -Fred Thompson and it seems the former senator from Tennessee has some Iowa volunteers. Laudner, earlier this week, showed FOX NEWS a list of Iowa Republicans who want their names forwarded to Thompson had he gets into the list. Laudner is taking the list to Washington for a meeting with Thompson's people about the Straw Poll.
LAUDNER: You know how the event is set up, how the voting works, the order of speeches, you know, the entire—the big vision of whole day's events. BROWN (on camera): Both McCain and Giuliani have Iowa visits coming up soon, McCain tomorrow, Giuliani later this month, both find themselves needing to prove to at least some Iowa Republicans that they are serious about competing in this state. Just not at the Straw Poll. In Clive, Iowa, Steve Brown, FOX NEWS.
HUME: A new FOX NEWS Opinion Dynamics Poll finds Rudy Giuliani still leading the Republican presidential race with 22 percent—this is national poll—among registered voters. John McCain and Fred Thompson run second and third at 15 and 13 percent; with Mitt Romney who's doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire, into double digits, but barely nationally.
Hillary Clinton still leads the Democrats with a solid 36 percent followed by Barack Obama at 23, with Al Gore who's so far not running, getting 14, two points ahead of John Edwards who is running. Here is an update on the Bill Jefferson story. The House Ethics Committee has voted to reauthorize an investigative subcommittee to look into the bribery charges against Jefferson. That subcommittee was initially authorized during the last Congress. The panel will also investigate whether Jefferson violated any House rules concerning the performance of his duties as a lawmaker. Plus a follow-up to that story we reported last night on the huge backlog of U.S. passport applications. There's word the Bush administration may temporary suspend the new requirement for air travelers to use American passports going to and coming from Canada and Mexico. The requirement could be waived for about six months, provided passenger can prove they have applied for a passport. Next on SPECIAL REPORT, the immigration reform bill appears to be hanging by a thread. I'll let the FOX all-stars tell you what the real deal is. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: When you are out there on the campaign trail, you trying to bring this all together. You're trying to make America better. Why can't we work together? This is why we can't work together. Because some people, when it comes to the tough decisions, back away.
SEN BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: .the notion that somehow that guts the bill or destroys the bill is simply disingenuous. And it's engaging in the sort of histrionics that is entirely inappropriate for this debate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUME: folks, that was late last night and the issue was a measure that the Senate had voted down a couple of weeks ago which would have ended the guest worker provision in the immigration bill, the guest worker program, after five years. A lot of Republicans favor the guest worker program, a lot of Republican employers favor the guest worker program. It has been a key part of this delicately structured compromise, as it's been called, and Lindsey Graham, who is out on a limb and in hot war on terror for water for a lot of his constituents for backing this bill, watched as Barack Obama, who purports to be guy who want to thing—to get things done, push this amendment and managed to get it passed. Now, that has been thought—that is—may be the killer amendment that ends the fate of this—that ends this bill, but we'll see. Some thoughts on all this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio; and Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call— FOX NEWS contributors all. That, of course Obama, in fighting to get that measure put into the bill, that sunset provision, as it's called, was certainly not making any enemies with organized labor. So where does it al stand now? Is this bill really at death's door and about to expire?
MORT KONDRACKE, ROLL CALL: Well, tonight there's going to be a cloture vote and we'll see. If enough Republicans peel off and enough Democrats, obviously, don't support the bill too, then it will go down, they needed 60 votes...
HUME: If you pass—if cloture is invoked that means you proceed to pass the bill, right? But can the bill pass in this form?
FRED BARNES, WEEKLY STANDARD: No, no, no, look, before cloture—cloture depends on entirely on one thing that is that deals can be worked out on a couple of the amendments that have already passed. One is the one that the—the one that sunsets the temporary workers program that Graham and Obama were fighting over. And that one everybody knew it was a poison pill. Dorgan had tried it before.
HUME: Byron Dorgan.
BARNES: Byron Dorgan.
HUME: Fellow Democrat with Barack Obama.
BARNES: He tired it before. It lost by one vote, before Memorial Day, he tinkered with it a little, brought it up again and then it was a poison pill designed to kill the bill. You know, people who really wanted to kill the bill like Jim DeMint and Jim Bunning, both Republican senators, they—and Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina—all three of them want to kill the bill—they joined it, they voted in favor of Dorgan because they knew it was a poison pill. But who else did? Barack Obama? Hillary Clinton? Joe Biden? The Democratic presidential candidates. Chris Dodd was not voting, he wasn't here. And all the Democratic leaders: Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer, they all voted for this poison pill knowing that it could kill the bill. These people claim they're for immigration reform.
KONDRACKE: Just to be fair and balanced about this, though; however, the Democrats got mad at the Republicans because some of the sponsors of the so-called "grand bargain" voted previously for Cornyn, John Cornyn from Texas, bill which would—which would have eliminated the confidentiality provision when people come forward to get a Z-Visa and if they disclose that they've violated the law in some way that could be turned over and this is Cornyn amendment that would permit that to happen and the Democrats all got mad... (CROSSTALK)
BARNES: Mort's exactly right—stop it! I'm trying to support you here. It's exactly right. It won with about 57 votes. It won overwhelmingly. It has to be repaired, as well. If those things are fixed, then there will be a vote for cloture and all the Republicans will vote for it, but if they aren't fixed...
HUME: Then the bill has a real of passing. Mara what do you—Mara, we need to get you in here.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think this bill is more threatened than it was 24 hours ago. I don't—if these things can be fixed, as Fred said, and you can pass different versions of these, it still might go forward a get out of Senate. I think the big question is we know that a large number of Republicans don't want this bill to pass. Up until now, my understanding was that the Democrats, as they group, felt that this was a good political thing to do, in other words, to pass this bill would be good for them even though it gives George Bush a certain kind of victory, now that's called into question.
HUME: Wait a minute. Mara, your view is.
LIASSON: Well, I mean, I think they're taking a risk.
HUME: If they decide it's better politics to have no bill? A lot—they know that that's the way a lot of Republicans look at it.
LIASSON: That is the question that this raises. I think that.
HUME: So, would they rather have some kind of payback on Republicans than a bill?
LIASSON: I—look, I think in Democratic thinking this issue is bad for Republicans whether the bill passes or not. Look at the Republican Party, it's split over this. But up until now I believed that Democrats felt, on the whole, it was better for them to pass it.
HUME: What has happened to change their minds? Organized labor weighed in?
LIASSON: I think that on some of these organized labor wanted these votes, maybe the Democrats felt they could vote for these amendments and the bill would still stand.
KONDRACKE: Yeah, they had to make a lot of deals. Everybody—in order for this bill to pass.
HUME: Oh, I know that.
KONDRACKE: People are going to have to swallow things they don't like and, you know, people don't know whether it is worth doing. Now, one last thing, two new polls today, I keep flagging these, FOX NEWS poll, indicates that—do you favor or oppose giving legal immigrants, who pay taxes and obey the law, a second chance to allow them to be in the United States -- 67 percent say yes.
In a similar poll with Pew.
BARNES: Mort, give it up on the polls.
KONDRACKE: No, I'm not going to give it up on the polls.
BARNES: It all depends on how you ask the questions. You can get polls that show.
KONDRACKE: Oh please, these are accurate representation of the way the American people feel.
BARNES: There has never been an issue that I know of where the way you ask the question.
HUME: The problem is, Mort, the problem with weighing this by polls is you don't know how strongly those way people feel on that...
LIASSON: People who care about this are generally against it. (CROSSTALK)
But it's also true that the public wants Congress to do something. And do things and here is a big one.
HUME: Next up with the panel: is a compromise in the offing between Moscow and Washington over missile defense? Wait until you hear about the Russian offer. Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): If we make in work transparent through the management of this system, and if we provide for an equal access to the system, then we will have no problem.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you just heard the desire to work together to allay people's fears. There's a lot of people who don't like it when Russia and the United States argue and it creates tensions.
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HUME: Yeah, no kidding, Mr. President. That's certainly true. The issue, of course, is the missile defense system that the Bush administration and the U.S. are going to plan to put in Eastern Europe which makes Eastern Europeans feel more secure from terrorist attacks and perhaps from other things as well. Vladimir Putin doesn't like it and has said he would retarget his missiles at the West if that system were put in place, which is a somewhat puzzling reaction. The president has offered the technology to Russia and asked Russia to be joined be protected by the shield as well, Putin seems not too interested in that, so he proposes that a old Russian missile defense site in Azerbaijan, which of course, is down on Russia's south, bet—there's a picture of what it looks like. It is not operative at this point and heaven knows whether it would ever work—could be used instead and that could be what protected everybody. So, that is what they are talking about. I have no idea whether—what the technical realties of that whole situation are, but what is going on here in the Bush-Putin relationship? The president talked pretty tough going into the summit, now you have sweetness and light and Putin, of course, is coming to Kennebunkport. Help me out here?
KONDRACKE: Well, it looked as though we were returning to the Cold War, if not World War III, the way they were going into this thing. Firing barbs at one another and accusing each other—Putin was saying that the United States resembled the Third Reich, for heavens sakes, and was talking about retargeting missiles at Europe, which is easy to do, by the way, it's only a computer. You turn dials and you could retarget the missiles. So, the fact that he's untargeting them doesn't mean that much.
HUME: You mean theoretically you can.
KONDRACKE: Yeah, well, at any event, I mean, this is a big fizzle, I frankly, do not understand what the all the huffing and puffing was about, unless it was.
HUME: You are a fine guy to start a panel with "big fizzle?" What are you talking about?
KONDRACKE: Well, it was a big fizzle. I mean, you know, given what all the storm and (INAUDIBLE) ahead of time and now it's gone.
HUME: Is that good news or bad?
HUME: Are you disappointed?
KONDRACKE: No. It's good. Basically good.
BARNES: You know, Bush was wrong, he said when the U.S. and Russia disagree, that creates tension.
LIASSON: No, the tensions.
BARNES: Yeah, reflects tensions. And they're there because Putin's acting like a jerk, an international jerk. I mean, he knows that the—knows perfectly well that those missile defense sights in Czechoslovakia and Poland are in no way going to threaten the Soviet Union and could not knock down their missiles if the Soviets—if the Russian fired them at Europe, which I don't think they have any intention of doing. You know, I keep slipping these days and calling it the "Soviet Union" and the Soviet because Mort's right, that's the way they are acting. And -
but look, clearly what happened today is Putin is backpedaling. You know, he's saying well, maybe I'll do this and maybe you won't do that and clearly they're heading toward a position where they'll be—maybe there will be a missile—and antimissile site in Azerbaijan and there'll probably be in Eastern Europe, too.
LIASSON: Look, this is something that—leaders of these meetings try to find some ground where they can agree on and this is better than talking about how Russia has fallen totally off the path to reform or talking about how America has become.
HUME: You don't think this is a put up job to avoid discussing that, do you?
LIASSON: No, but I just think it's something that they, you know, they went to this safe ground because maybe they felt like things are getting a little but—getting too nasty. But look, Russia and America have true serious strains. They also need to work together on a lot of serious issues like terrorism and Iran, and, you know, it's important that they can do that.
HUME: Russia has not been much help...
LIASSON: No, no, but we need them to help because they are often the key to some of these changes.
BARNES: Well, that is the key to Bush trying to be nice to Putin. He does want help, but Mara's right, he does want help on stopping the Iranians from moving to nuclear weapons and he hasn't gotten much yet, that's true.
KONDRACKE: Beneath the surface here, I mean, the—what Putin was saying was that Iran is not anywhere near being able to deploy missiles that will hit Europe. And so he's letting Iran off the hook, in effect, because this Azerbaijan thing will take forever to develop.
HUME: And that's it for the panel, but stay tuned to find out why President Bush is wearing his seatbelt these days. That's next.
HUME: Finally tonight, the nation's police with, President Bush joining in, have embarked on a new campaign to get people to wear their seat belts. You'll see why the president wears his and why he needs to. .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: From coast-to-coast, cops are cracking down on seatbelt violations. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, they'll be on the lookout. POLICE: You, without a seatbelt, pull over!
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HUME: And that's SPECIAL REPORT for this time, please tune us in next time and in the meantime, more news is on the way—fair, balances and unafraid.
Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EST.
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