Immigration Split Still Hangs Over McCain And Republicans

While John McCain was being coronated as the heir apparent at a highly publicized White House meeting with President Bush, his colleagues on Capitol Hill couldn't resist rolling out what could be described as a Lou Dobbs dream package of immigration bills.

If was one of those moments where one had to wonder if the right hand of the Republican party was talking to the left, er, moderate hand of the GOP.

Immigration is the preeminent issue that has divided McCain from his party, as McCain has supported a comprehensive approach to immigration, including a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Since that debacle, McCain has been chastened, saying he believes in border security first.

Yet while Bush was passing the torch to McCain as the party's standard bearer, a half dozen conservative GOP senators were unveiling proposals dealing with deportation, making English the official language, revoking funds for "sanctuary cities" and giving local police more immigration enforcement powers.

"This debate has not ended. It's not on hold," said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) as he unveiled a series of Republican proposals on immigration. "Something needs to be done this year."

Sessions said he had not consulted with the White House on this issue, nor had he talked directly with McCain. Sessions also hasn't asked the man who sets the Senate schedule, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), for votes on the proposals.

Sessions and other opponents of comprehensive immigration reform believe McCain has learned his lesson on the issue.

"He has said he got the message and believes the way to go is border enforcement first," Sessions said. "I think he'll be supportive of much of it."

Sessions hastened to add: "There's nothing in here that represents an attempt to embarrass him."

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