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Special Report

The Senate takes up immigration reform

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, HOST: Senate Judiciary Committee taking up the immigration reform Bill today, some 300 amendments. It was a markup. It's a rare thing, regular order up in Capitol Hill, but it happened today. All sides very interested in this. Marco Rubio, the senator who is a proponent, just put out a statement saying this, "The immigration legislation was improved in some areas today. The bill will now do more to secure our border and enforce our laws than when the day began. However, we must continue to work to assure the American people that we will fix our broken immigration system and never repeat today's de facto amnesty."

We're back with the panel. Nina, we heard from Sessions and Rubio earlier. The big issue is border security and the trigger and convincing conservatives that that's going to work.

NINA EASTON, COLUMNIST, FORTUNE MAGAZINE: To me, the most interesting political story in all of this is Marco Rubio. He's got to deliver conservatives. He's got to prove to them that there is border security that can work. He's got to stand up to this Heritage report that you were talking about, that this is going to be extremely costly, that it's going to end up with more people on government aid, that the border security isn't tight enough. And he's got to go up against Jeff Sessions leading the conservative charge against this from the get-go. And this is somebody who is a 2016 Republican presidential prospect, and he's got to keep enough conservative troops in line. And he's got a lot, I think, hanging in the balance to get this thing through.

BAIER: His folks, Charles, are reporting to a statement by 30 conservative leaders supporting immigration reform, Conservative.org has it. And they suggest the tide is turning on the conservative side. What's your sense?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think the word "immigration reform" has no meaning.  The question is what's in the bill. I'm not against it or in favor of immigration reform in the abstract. What happened today was extremely important. There was an amendment which would say that nothing happens, nobody is legalized, there's no start of the process unless the border is secure. And that's from Sessions and others. And Rubio, he voted against it. I understand why. It's because he thinks there's no chance of that ever being enacted with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House.

So he wants to get reform, but the only other way he can get it is to have a trigger that occurs later where you get legalization early on, but you won't get a green card or citizenship or any of that even started unless the border is secure. I think that's a reasonable argument.

But the problem is, is he going to get that trigger enforced and ensured? If Democrats weaken it, the bill ought to be opposed.

BAIER: Sessions' big point, and for the most part, Juan, it seems like Democrats are lining up on the vote. Sessions' big point on the conservative side is he says who is fighting for the American worker, and who's fighting for that voice? Where do you think it stands?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, you know, in your interview with Marco Rubio, he spoke this directly at some point when he said, listen, there's a provision in the bill that says if the job can be handled by Americans, it is to be given to Americans first. I think that's pretty clear, a pretty direct answer from my point of view. And so I was thrilled that you asked that question, because obviously it's on a lot of minds.

But the real hang up here is from the Democrats' point of view voiced by Senator Feinstein, who said, look, you can have some of these Grassley amendments. Grassley wants more oversight, make sure Congress is properly informed. We want to know what's going on with border security and make sure it extends just not in terms of the Southwestern states but even beyond those high risk states. OK, you can do that. but the question then becomes is this simply a delay tactic, because if it's a delay tactic, what we've seen is a diminution of Republican support for this bill and Marco Rubio now on the defensive in this fight and the odds of passage going down.

BAIER: One word answer -- get through the Senate?

WILLIAMS: I really don't know.

BAIER: How many words was that?

EASTON: Probably, but we haven't touched on the gay rights amendment that will also could be lethal.

BAIER: Only one word. OK.

(LAUGHTER)

KRAUTHAMMER: Probably.

BAIER: There you go. That's it. At least it was one word. That's it for the panel. 

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