Immigration Vote: End Of A Presidency?

This analysis was prompted by the 46-to-53 Senate vote Thursday that ended the debate over immigration, most likely for the remainder of George W. Bush's term in office.

"You could make the case that the Bush presidency ended this week," a former White House adviser to Ronald Reagan told U.S. News. He points out that not only did Bush lose his main domestic priority for his second term, but he also faces a revolt within his party over his Iraq policy.

That was driven home when Sens. Richard Lugar of Indiana and George Voinovich of Ohio broke with the administration and said it's time for the United States to start disengaging from Iraq. Bush aides are trying to persuade the GOP dissidents not to stray too far and to give the president's Iraq policy longer to work. But it's unclear whether those arguments will work.

On immigration, Bush argued Thursday that the American people realize that the status quo is "unacceptable," and he expressed disappointment that his compromise measure failed. But its loss was caused at least as much by opposition from conservatives as from liberals, and it caused a rift between Bush and his base that may be irreparable.

White House officials are trying to shift blame to the Democratic majority in Congress. Bush advisers say Democratic leaders will now be unable to show any progress on immigration, raising questions about whether they can govern effectively.

But Bush also will pay a price. Strategists of both parties say Bush has now moved closer to lame-duck status--especially considering that his popularity is so low, with only about 30 percent of the public approving his job performance.

This means his influence on Capitol Hill has been greatly diminished.

By Kenneth T. Walsh