The Political Impact of Dueling Immigration Hearings

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This is a partial transcript from "The Beltway Boys," on July 8, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

Watch "The Beltway Boys" Saturday at 6 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. ET and Sunday at 2:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. ET.

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: Up: President Bush. After months of deadlock and infighting in his own party, Bush may be closer than ever to brokering a compromise on immigration reform. But you would not know it by watching the dueling hearings.

Watch. Here's an example.


REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, R-CALIF.: Let's get going. Let's do our jobs so that these people down at the border can do their job, and stop this invasion of the United States, which is hurting the American people.



MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Although they broke the law by illegally crossing our borders, our city's economy would be a shell of itself had they not. And it would collapse if they were deported.


KONDRACKE: That was Dana Rohrabacher who's an anti- immigration hot-dog guy testifying in San Diego.

FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: He's also a congressman from California.



KONDRACKE: And, Mayor Bloomberg of New York, testifying at a Senate hearing.

Those hearings got all the attention last week. But the real stuff that's going on is behind-the-scenes negotiations between James Sensenbrenner, the House Judiciary chairman, and Arlen Specter, the Senate Judiciary Chairman and their staffs overseeing, or assisted by Barry Jackson from the White House, who's working as Karl Rove's agent on the immigration issue.

And what's been happening, and the news reports coming out of these negotiations, is that there is a movement on the part of the Senate toward the House in terms of staggering border security first, and then followed by, you know, worker programs and the other parts of the comprehensive.

But there is movement in the other direction, too. Because the business community is really working on House Republicans to convince them that we've got to have a temporary worker program. We can't operate without the labor. And furthermore, if you have a temporary-worker program, it takes pressure off the border. Having people coming in legally relieves border-security agents to get people who are coming illegally.

FRED BARNES: You know who's also helped Republicans in the House, who really just want border security and don't want a temporary-worker program or earned citizenship for the illegal immigrants already in the U.S.? It's Democrats. I mean, they've criticized them too soon. Because they've made it clear to Republicans, House Republicans, if they come out and say, Well, we blocked a bad Senate bill. That won't work, that they will be accused of doing nothing. And Democrats will say, "Well, you raised this big border-security issue, what did you do about it?" And the answer will be, nothing.

I think this is making some House Republicans realize that they need a bill with all three parts. Because that's the only one that can pass the Senate. Don't you agree?


BARNES: I thought you might.

Down: Joe Lieberman. He's hedging his bets on his own political future by announcing he'll run as an independent in the Connecticut Senate race if he loses the Democratic primary August 8.

Here's Lieberman tussling with primary challenger Ned Lamont in their first and only debate Thursday night.


NED LAMONT, DEMOCRATIC CONN. SENATE CANDIDATE: It's so important that Democrats stand up and present a constructive alternative to the Bush administration. And I do find that Senator Lieberman too often is willing to undermine the Democrats, be it on issues of war and peace like the war in Iraq, or be it on a variety of other issues.



SEN, JOE LIEBERMAN, D-CONN.: It's a choice between a senator whose agreed with Democrats 90 percent of the time, but had the courage of his convictions when he did not. And a challenger who agreed with Republicans 80 percent of the time in Greenwich, but now has emerged as a very liberal Democrat who can't even make up his mind about how we should exit Iraq.


BARNES: Yes, I think those were from their final statements at the debate, which was a pretty good debate, actually. The first half on Iraq, and obviously Lieberman's very good on that. The second half he - he wasn't quite as good. He endorsed earmarks. Good for Connecticut. I thought that was a little weak.

But in any case, I think Lieberman's going to be re-elected, either as a Democrat or either as an independent. The White House and the Republican National Committee, they're not going to, you know, fund a big, aggressive Republican campaign against him there. The president will not go in and campaign against him, that's for sure. And if he loses, obviously, he would be a martyr for Iraq, for Bush's policy on Iraq. And the White House doesn't want that to happen.


Well, I agree with what The Wall Street Journal's editorial about this said on Wednesday: "Connecticut's Senate race may turn out to be the most important election of the year. If Democrats drive Mr. Lieberman from their ranks, they will be sending Americans a message that George Soros and dominate their party."

Now, you know, if, it should be stated that if Joe Lieberman wins as an independent, he will stay a Democrat and vote with the Democrats, obviously.

BARNES: Well, he says that now.

KONDRACKE: Well, oh, come on. He's not going to shift to being a Republican.

BARNES: No. No. Not at all.

KONDRACKE: All right. OK.

But anyway, but this is a big test for the 2008 presidential candidates. And here we have Al Gore, who's not — obviously not declared yet, but John Kerry is all but declared. And they are neutral in this race, and especially in Al Gore's case, his own running mate, for heaven's sakes. The guy who said that he wouldn't run if Al Gore ran in the last election. Some loyalty. And John Kerry, they're both really aligning themselves basically with

Now Hillary Clinton is for Joe Lieberman in the primary. But she says — she announces now — she doesn't need to announce anything now — she says she's for Joe Lieberman in the primary, but if he loses the primary and runs as an independent, she's for Lamont.

BARNES: In a pinch, you learn who your real friends are. That's true in politics and in life.

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