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Press Release - Barack Obama - A "Poison Pill" To Immigration Reform

June 28, 2008

ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, McCain spokesman Brian Rogers issued the following statement on Barack Obama's remarks at the NALEO conference where he conveniently glossed over his record of putting politics ahead of reforming our immigration system:

"It's quite audacious for Barack Obama to question John McCain's commitment to immigration reform when it was Obama himself who worked to kill the Senate's bipartisan immigration reform compromise last year. Barack Obama voted for five 'poison pill' amendments designed by special interests to kill the immigration reform deal. These efforts were strongly opposed by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), the Democrat who led the fight for immigration reform, because he understood they would have the effect of ending the bipartisan work toward immigration reform.

"The reality is that Barack Obama has never reached across the aisle to lead in a bipartisan fashion on an issue of major importance to the American people when his own political interests were at risk. The American people are tired of typical politicians like Barack Obama. While John McCain was reaching across the aisle to solve the tough problem of immigration reform, Barack Obama was working for politics as usual in Washington."

FACT CHECK: Obama Put Politics First And Supported "Poison Pill" Efforts To Kill The Immigration Reform Compromise Last Year

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes: "Obama Professes In Speeches And His Bestselling Book, The Audacity Of Hope, To Rise Above Crass Party Interests. Not This Time." "Where was Barack Obama? The moment was perfect last week for the Illinois senator and champion of bipartisanship to step forward and help save the compromise immigration bill from a premature death. All he needed to do was switch his vote to oppose an amendment whose passage was going to shatter the Senate coalition that negotiated the bill. By switching, Obama would have substantiated his claim to be a politician eager to reach across the partisan aisle and end the bitter polarization in Washington. But Obama was not heard from. A day later, with the deliberations on the bill in turmoil, Senate majority leader Harry Reid yanked it off the Senate floor. Obama voted with Reid on cloture, which failed, prompting the shutdown. It may be unfair to single ou t Obama for backing a so-called poison pill that would have weakened the proposed temporary worker program (by terminating it after five years). Obama wasn't alone. Two Democratic presidential candidates--Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden--voted with him, as did Reid, Chuck Schumer, and Dick Durbin, Reid's colleagues in the Senate Democratic leadership. What made Obama's vote different was his hypocrisy. The others are hard-core partisans. Obama professes in speeches and his bestselling book, The Audacity of Hope, to rise above crass party interests. Not this time." (Fred Barnes, "The 'Grand Bargain' Comes Undone," The Weekly Standard, 6/18/07)

Obama Voted For Five "Poison Pill" Amendments Designed To Kill Immigration Reform Compromise:

  • S.A. 1169 (Bingaman) -- Obama Voted In Favor Of Lowering The Annual Visa Quota For Guest Workers From 400,000 To 200,000. "Bingaman, D-N.M., amendment no. 1169 to the Kennedy, D-Mass., substitute amendment no. 1150. The Bingaman amendment would lower the annual visa quota for guest workers from 400,000 to 200,000 per year." (S. 1348, CQ Vote #175: Adopted 74-24: R 27-21; D 46-2; I 1-1, 5/23/07, Obama Voted Yea, Kennedy Voted Nay, McCain Did Not Vote)
  • S.A. 1181 (Dorgan) -- Obama Voted In Favor Of Sunsetting The Guest Worker Visa Program After Five Years. "Dorgan, D-N.D., amendment no. 1181 to the Kennedy, D-Mass., substitute amendment no. 1150. The Dorgan amendment would sunset the temporary guest worker visa program in the bill after five years." (S. 1348, CQ Vote #178: Rejected 48-49: R 9-38; D 38-10; I 1-1, 5/24/07, Obama Voted Yea, Kennedy Voted Nay, McCain Voted Nay)
  • S.A. 1202 (Obama) -- Obama Sponsored And Voted In Favor Of An Amendment That Would Sunset The Merit-Based Evaluation System For Immigrants. "Obama, D-Ill., amendment no. 1202 to the Kennedy, D-Mass., substitute amendment no. 1150. The Obama amendment would sunset the merit-based evaluation system for immigrants after five years." (S. 1348, CQ Vote #200: Rejected 42-55: R 1-47; D 39-8; I 2-0, 6/6/07, Obama Voted Yea, Kennedy Voted Nay, McCain Voted Nay)
  • S.A. 1267 (Bingaman) -- Obama Proposed And Voted In Favor Of His Amendment That Would Remove The Requirement That "Y" Visa Holders Leave The U.S. For One Year Before Being Able To Renew The Visa. "Bingaman, D-N.M., amendment no. 1267 to the Kennedy, D-Mass., substitute amendment no. 1150. The Bingaman amendment would remove the requirement that 'Y' non-immigrant visa holders leave the United States before they are able to renew their visa." (S. 1348, CQ Vote #189: Rejected 41-57: R 4-44; D 35-13; I 2-0, 6/6/07, Obama Voted Yea, Kennedy Voted Nay, McCain Voted Nay)
  • S.A. 1316 (Dorgan) -- Obama Voted To Sunset The Y-1 Non-Immigrant Temporary Worker Visa Program After Five Years. "Dorgan, D-N.D., amendment to the Kennedy, D-Mass., substitute amendment. The Dorgan amendment would sunset the Y-1 non-immigrant temporary worker visa program after five years." (S. 1348, CQ Vote #201: Adopted 49-48: R 11-37; D 37-10; I 1-1, 6/6/07, Obama Voted Yea, Kennedy Voted Nay, McCain Voted Nay)

Obama-Backed Amendments Dealt "Potentially Fatal Blows To The Fragile Coalition Backing The Bill":

Obama "Backed 11th- Hour Amendments" To The Bipartisan Immigration Bill That Imperiled The Immigration Reform Compromise. "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." (Ariel Sabar, "For Obama, Bipartisan Aims, Party-Line Votes," Christian Science Monitor, 4/17/08)

  • Obama "Voted For One Amendment ... Designed To Insert A Deadly 'Poison Pill' Into The Bipartisan 'Grand Bargain' On Immigration Reform." "But then, on the floor of the Senate last week, Obama voted for one amendment - backed by the AFL-CIO and sponsored by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) - designed to insert a deadly 'poison pill' into the bipartisan 'grand bargain' on immigration reform." (Mort Kondracke, Op-Ed, "Pandering to Base, 2008 Candidates Risk More Division," Roll Call, 6/14/07)
  • Obama Proposed An Amendment That Was Seen As Part Of An Effort To Offer "Potentially Fatal Blows To The Fragile Coalition Backing The Bill." "They first had turned back a Republican bid to reduce the number of illegal immigrants who could gain lawful status. They later rejected two high-profile Democratic amendments. One would have postponed the bill's shift to an emphasis on education and skills among visa applicants as opposed to family connections. The other, offered by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., would have ended a new point system for those seeking permanent resident 'green cards' after five years rather than 14 years. All three amendments were seen as potentially fatal blows to the fragile coalition backing the bill, which remains under attack from the right and left." (Charles Babington, "Immigration Deal Survives Senate Challenges, Backers Cautiously Optimistic," The Associated Press, 6/7/07)

Obama Not Heavily Involved In Bipartisan Immigration Reform Compromise:

Senate Staff Members And Sen. Arlen Specter Recalled That Obama Had Not Been At The Early Legislation-Crafting Meetings He Claimed To Attend. "To Senate staff members, who had been arriving for 7 a.m. negotiating sessions for weeks, it was a galling moment. Those morning sessions had attracted just three to four senators a side, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recalled, each deeply involved in the issue. Obama was not one of them." (Shailagh Murray and Jonathan Weisman, "Both Obama And Clinton Embellish Their Roles," The Washington Post, 3/24/08)

Obama Was Not Heavily Involved In Efforts To Secure Bipartisan Immigration Reform. "He did support the bipartisan effort to get an immigration bill last year, winning a plaudit from McCain. But he didn't work closely with the White House, as did Sen. Edward Kennedy." (David Ignatius, Op-Ed, "Obama: A Thin Record For A Bridge Builder," The Washington Post, 3/2/08)

John McCain, Press Release - Barack Obama - A "Poison Pill" To Immigration Reform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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