Senators eye funding to save immigration reform bill

Senate negotiators of a broad immigration bill have all but scrapped the idea of an emergency supplemental appropriations bill for border security in favor of an amendment to the bill that would provide $4.4 billion in mandatory funds immediately upon enactment.

Republicans outside the negotiating team are saying they would prefer the supplemental.

"I would like the emergency supplemental because I think that shows a strong commitment, and if the bill takes a longer time, which it well could, the emergency supplemental could be begun quicker. I think a show of commitment like that would be really encouraging to the American people," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, one of the Republicans being wooed to support the bipartisan compromise.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who, with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., requested an emergency supplemental earlier in the week, said he has not yet discussed with the immigration negotiators the idea of mandatory spending for border security in the bill.

"I really stick with what Saxby and I said in the letter that the confidence level requires an emergency supplemental that appropriates the money," Isakson said. "If it's decoupled from any perceived trade-off for something else, then people don't think it's the real deal."

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Jon Kyl of Arizona hinted that an emergency supplemental spending bill is not off the table, noting that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could act on his own while negotiations continue on floor strategy. "The leader might decide to take care of the funding issue itself," he said.

Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., joined negotiators in a meeting Thursday morning to discuss floor strategy. Kyl said Durbin and other leadership staff are working to fit a second immigration debate into the floor schedule.

"Those of us who are interested in getting the bill passed are working to present to the leaders what they need to call the bill up and get it done before the Fourth of July," Kyl said.

Schumer is interested in tinkering with provisions in the bill dealing with employment verification and Social Security cards, Kyl said. The list of amendments that would require floor votes is more or less settled, according to Kyl, but negotiators are attempting to resolve individual senators' concerns before the floor debate to make it easier for Reid to schedule it.

"There are a certain number of amendments that members have a right to offer, and they're going to offer their amendments, and those are going to get resolved," Kyl said. "On other things, if we can work it out, it'll just make it a lot easier to get to a final vote on the bill."

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