From a Q&A with Sen. Harry Reid:
Q: With more Democrats in the Senate and the House and a Democrat in the White House, how do you see congressional efforts playing out on such issues as health care and immigration?
A: On immigration, there's been an agreement between (President-elect Barack) Obama and (Arizona Republican Sen. John) McCain to move forward on that. ... We'll do that. We have to get this economy stuff figured out first, so I think we'll have a shot at doing something on health care in the next Congress for sure.
Q: Will there be as much of a fight on immigration as last time?
A: We've got McCain and we've got a few others. I don't expect much of a fight at all. Now health care is going to be difficult. That's a very complicated issue. We debated at great length immigration. People understand the issues very well. We have not debated health care, so that's going to take a lot more time to do.
Some immigration hawks are more alarmed about this than I think is warranted. Mickey Kaus says "This is a stronger statement from Reid than I, for one, had expected" — but it doesn't seem all that strong to me. First, it sounds more like off-the-cuff bravado (remember Bush's "see you at the bill signing"?); second, note "We have to get this economy stuff figured out first" (good luck with that!); and third, he's comparing it to health care, where there probably really isn't the same elite PC consensus as there is on immigration.
Reid also says he's got McCain and "a few others" — sure, his "little jerk" and Mel Martinez, but McCain in the Senate just doesn't offer nervous Democrats the same political cover a president McCain could (or Bush did), so even some of last year's Democrat supporters will be leery. And despite the hilarious claims by Tamar Jacoby and others that the public supports amnesty, amnesty boosters know perfectly well how disliked it is — Brian Faughnan at the Weekly Standard writes "Proponents will argue that while the measure may be unpopular, it's better to swallow a bitter pill far in advance of the midterms." This is how New Jersey's junior senator put it:
But Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said if lawmakers don't consider the issue early, it could "slide into midterms" — the 2010 election — and again become a contentious campaign issue.
"This is one of those issues that needs to be done early on," said Menendez, noting that it has been difficult for Congress to approve even bipartisan measures such as the Dream Act.
So, unemployment is on its way up, and the Democrats and their Republican thralls are going to argue that it's better to legalize illegals (and increase future immigration to boot) rather than continue the proven policy of getting more and more of those illegals to leave. Sounds like a vote-getter to me!