All-Star Panel: Key Senate vote on immigration reform

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," June 24, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is a Fox News alert. You're looking live at the Senate floor, not a lot of activity there, but the votes are still coming in. The vote is still open on this controversial amendment known as the surge amendment put forward by Senators Hoeven and Corker. The reason it's still open actually, the tally is 66 for the amendment, 26 against, eight outstanding senators. They needed 60 votes to pass the threshold. It looks like they have that, but since the vote is still open, senators could change their votes. The reason they left it open is because the weather here in Washington is bad and many senators are stuck at the airport, and they're racing now from Washington's Reagan National to try to vote.

With that, let's listen to some of the back and forth today.


SEN. BOB CORKER, R - TN: If this amendment is passed, even though there may be people that vote against the overall bill, voting for this amendment strengthens the bill such that if we pass it, we have a bill in my opinion that meets the test of the American people. We're securing the border, but we're allowing those people at the back of the line to have some pathway to continue to live the American dream.

SEN. JESS SESSIONS, R - AL: I think the bill was in big trouble last week, as a result of its failure to live up to the promises that the "Gang of 8" had made. And I think this amendment will also suffer from credibility problems.


BAIER: We're back with the panel. Charles, your thoughts on this amendment. It looks like it's going to pass. Supporters want to get to 70 to kind of have a big number. What do you think?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Right a big number to overawe the House and to force it to ultimate signature on the president's desk. But look, I think the problem with the Corker amendment is this. It's a shock and awe approach. It throws everything at the problem, tons of money, 20,000 new border agents. It does all of that, but it does not make the enforcement and the success in enforcement a requirement. And that's the problem. If it's a goal it will be exactly like the goals that we had in 1986 that gave us the problem today.

Look, everybody who is supporting the bill is citing the CBO estimate about how it is going to increase our economy, how it is going to give money essentially also to the government. But also in the CBO report is an assumption that under the bill in 10 years we're going to have another 5 million illegals, which means that we will reach the 11 million in less time than it took from the last amnesty to get the current 11 million.

And unless you've got something -- so if you are admitting that, what you are saying is enforcement really is simply a fig leaf. It looks as if you are doing a lot, but there is no guarantee. And without it, without a statement that you do not get a green card and citizenship unless the border is closed, all you have are promises and a lot of inputs. You have got to have the output.

BAIER: Juan?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I just, you know, to me, this is -- we're playing politics here, pandering in my opinion. This whole border security thing is for people who think that the big problem right now is on that southern border with Mexicans coming over. And, in fact, as you know, there is at the moment a net outward flow, given the recession and the like.

And, secondly, there has been so many improvements in terms of border security, I think it's now that we have had a 750 percent increase in spending -- the budget for customs and border patrol over the last few years. Obama's deporting more illegal immigrants than ever, any president in American history. We have gone from having 4,000 border patrol agents in the 90 over 21,000 today. To me, this is like people who are looking for a reason to say we don't want immigration reform. And I think that's pandering to people who are just anti-immigrant in our society.

BAIER: Jason, there is a lot of talk about how senators didn't read this amendment, let alone didn't read the bill as of yet. Senator Corker has pushed back on that, saying it's been on -- posted for quite some time. Your thoughts if this amendment really gets them the votes they need in the Senate, and if it effects the House at all.

JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: It may get them the votes they need in the Senate. I think it will. How much impact it will have in the House I'm not sure about that momentum argument. I think the House is going to want to do their own thing.

My problem is I think there is a fundamental dishonesty in this debate. Again, I understand why Republicans are doing the border security first approach. But you are leading the public to believe that the key to reducing illegal immigration in this country is more border security. There is nothing in our recent immigration history that suggests that that's the case.

Again, we have beefed up the border in the past under Clinton. We did it in San Diego. We did in El Paso. We thought the Arizona mountains would keep them out. They've moved around and come in in other ways.

Two things reduce illegal immigration to the U.S. One is a poor U.S. economy, which attracts fewer workers. And the second thing is giving people more legal ways to come. And this bill is emphasizing border security at the expense of doing things that we know work because they have worked in the past.

KRAUTHAMMER: But Jason, if the reason that the fencing and all of that hasn't worked is because if you stop them here they are going to go in there, well then you fence the there. You fence the entire southern border.

WILLIAMS: We've done that.

KRAUTHAMMER: We have not. The border is 2,000 miles. We have exactly 350 of them. And 90 percent of that is a single strain, which has no effect.

RILEY: We have fenced the popular corridors.

KRAUTHAMMER: We have 36 miles of double fencing of a 2,000-mile border. We have never had a barrier that was ever tested.

BAIER: This amendment says it would double 350 miles of pedestrian fencing already deployed to 700 miles of fencing along the border.

KRAUTHAMMER: That's single strand which does not work.

WILLIAMS: The big problem is people flying into the country and overstaying their visas.

RILEY: That's 40 percent right there Charles.

WILLIAMS: That's the big ticket. This border thing is just ridiculous, this wall thing. It's like --


BAIER: We are going to talk about this wall thing and a lot of other things all week long on this debate so thank you very much. By the way, the Senate floor 67-26, Lamar Alexander arriving from the airport voting aye.

That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for a surprise visitor during a local weather report. 

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