Senate chair still blocking border security bill

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., will continue to oppose efforts to move comprehensive border security legislation via unanimous consent, his spokesman said Tuesday. The bill is expected to be a priority item on the immigration agenda this year.

Byrd lodged an objection late last year to a request to approve the legislation, crafted jointly by Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Immigration Subcommittee ranking member Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., without debate or amendment on the floor.

The measure, which was preconferenced among lawmakers of both chambers, was approved unanimously in the House in December.

Numerous observers said it was their understanding Byrd had objected out of concern that the Bush administration--which supports the immigration measure--had been uncooperative on an unrelated funding matter. But Byrd's spokesman firmly disputed that account.

Rather, Byrd objected to the procedural agreement because there had been no public debate or scrutiny of the border security measure, the spokesman asserted.

"He thought it was too large a piece of legislation to try and rush through under unanimous consent," he added. Byrd "wants to have the Senate ... at least debate amendments on the floor and vote."

Added the spokesman: "This is a very large, complex and important piece of legislation, and it shouldn't be done without deliberation and debate."

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