Obama Helped Kill Immigration Reform In 2007 - Will Media Remember?

With immigration reform back on the front page thanks to Arizona's new controversial law, it's going to be very interesting to see how the Obama-loving press report what he did concerning this issue when he was a junior senator from Illinois in 2007.

For instance, David Broder's "How Congress Botched Immigration Reform" published in Thursday's Washington Post didn't even mention Barack Obama's name.

This seems particularly odd given this paragraph (h/t Jennifer Rubin):

But once the bill hit the floor, it was attacked from both flanks. The most conservative Republicans -- Jim DeMint of South Carolina, David Vitter of Louisiana and Jeff Sessions of Alabama -- led the assault. They were joined by some civil libertarians and allies of organized labor who were dissatisfied with the bill's protections for guest workers. Democrat Byron Dorgan of North Dakota repeatedly tried to gut the guest-worker program before finally succeeding by one vote on his third effort. 

Broder curiously chose to ignore the fact that Barack Obama was, for all intents and purposes, the fateful deciding vote as reported by the late Robert Novak in June 2007:

Democrat Byron Dorgan, who seldom has tasted legislative success during 15 years in the Senate, scored a dubious victory last week. He was able to insert a poison pill in the immigration reform bill that aimed at emasculating the essential guest worker program. The 49 to 48 vote that passed Dorgan's amendment included surprising support from two prominent first-term senators: Jim DeMint, a conservative Republican from South Carolina, and Barack Obama. [...]

The Dorgan amendment is a classic poison pill: designed to kill, not improve, the bill. Its passage makes resurrection of immigration reform all the more difficult. Decisive votes by DeMint and Obama were not appreciated by the bipartisan group that had crafted the bargain intended to secure America's borders while permitting an orderly flow of temporary workers. [...]

Obama's vote for the poison pill was unexpected because he had participated, uninvited, one time in the bipartisan negotiating process. He had demanded and won a provision permitting immigrants to stay on the job after being designated "not employable" by the government under the new system until their appeals were exhausted. Obama's support for the Dorgan amendment then infuriated Republicans in the negotiating group who had opposed the concession to the presidential candidate. 

In case you're thinking the conservative Novak was being a tad partisan with his piece, here's what the Associated Press wrote on June 7 that year:

A proposed immigration overhaul narrowly survived several strong Senate challenges Wednesday, but it suffered a potentially deal-breaking setback early Thursday.

Shortly after midnight, the Senate voted 49-48 to end a new temporary worker program after five years. The vote reversed the one-vote outcome on the same amendment offered both times by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D. two weeks ago. Six senators switched their votes, reflecting the issue's political volatility.

Earlier that day, the AP reported (via LexisNexis, no link available, emphasis added):

June 7, 2007 Thursday 1:51 PM GMT

How they voted: Senate vote by party on immigration amendment

BYLINE: By The Associated Press


LENGTH: 327 words

The 49-48 roll call by which the Senate passed an amendment to the proposed immigration overhaul that would end a temporary worker program after five years.

On this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote to end the program after five years and a "no" vote was a vote against adding this time limit to the program.

Voting "yes" were 37 Democrats, 11 Republicans and one independent.

Voting "no" were 10 Democrats, 37 Republicans and one independent.

Democrats Yes

Baucus, Mont.; Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Bingaman, N.M.; Boxer, Calif.; Brown, Ohio; Byrd, W.Va.; Cardin, Md.; Casey, Pa.; Clinton, N.Y.; Conrad, N.D.; Dorgan, N.D.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis.; Harkin, Iowa; Inouye, Hawaii; Klobuchar, Minn.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; McCaskill, Mo.; Menendez, N.J.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Nelson, Fla.; Nelson, Neb.; Obama, Ill.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Rockefeller, W.Va.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.; Tester, Mont.; Webb, Va.; Wyden, Ore.

The following year, as the presidential campaign was in full-swing, the Christian Science Monitor reported on April 17, 2008:

Obama was part of the bipartisan group of senators who began meeting in 2005 on comprehensive immigration reform. But last summer, with the presidential nominating race well under way, Obama backed 11th-hour amendments - supported by labor, immigrant rights, and clergy groups - that Republicans saw as imperiling the fragile compromise.

None of those measures passed. But Obama was part of a 49-to-48 majority that voted to end after five years a temporary worker program that had been a cornerstone of the immigration deal. The vote, backed by labor, was seen as a major setback to bipartisan negotiations.

Given all this, one has to wonder why Broder recognized the significance of the Dorgan amendment, but totally ignored Obama's role in getting it passed.

More importantly, as immigration takes center stage in the coming weeks, will everyone in the media forget what Sen. Barack Obama did to prevent reform three years ago?

Stay tuned. 

Immigration Washington Post Byron Dorgan
Noel Sheppard's picture

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