Politics Week Ahead: Gonzales, Immigration

We discuss political developments this week: A Senate no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is planned for Monday, and President Bush visits Capitol Hill Tuesday in an attempt to revive the immigration reform bill.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

President Bush will try to revive the immigration bill after he returns from his European trip tonight. Last week the bill all but died on the Senate floor.

Joining us now is NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Hi, Ron.

RON ELVING: Hello, Madeleine.

BRAND: So tomorrow he will have to convince, actually, senators of his own party - right - to back this bill? What he's going to say?

ELVING: He's going to say don't give up. The bill is necessary. We have to have it. The current system is broken so, let's pick through the pieces and get back to the bargain that we had in May and let's figure out what our bottom line is as Republicans and get back in the game. Not for me, guys, not for me or my presidency but for our country.

BRAND: Right. Well, there doesn't appear to be a bottom line for members of his own party. They're all over the place on this.

ELVING: Yes. And of course they're hearing a great deal about the negatives in the bill. They've really been beaten up and bruised and bloody by all of the activists, all the activity that is coming at them from talk radio and from the Internet and from phone calls. They've really heard from the people who are against this bill. Perhaps the most effective thing the president has going form and going up there to the Hill is just going up there to the Hill. He usually comes for a ceremony or a pep rally on the House side; he's a very unusual presence in the Senate, so it's eloquent just to have him there. The arguments that he's making are probably going to be another story.

BRAND: Well, what does he have to say to also convince people in the Democratic Party to support this bill, people who have been wavering?

ELVING: Yes. He still needs the deal with the majority. He needs to figure out whether or not Harry Reid, the senate majority leader, is actually with him or against him on this bill and act accordingly. And at some point he has to figure out what he's going to do with Speaker Nancy Pelosi over on the House side or this is just going to be a one-chamber exercise and go nowhere.

BRAND: Okay. So if this bill dies, is that it for the president's domestic agenda?

ELVING: Not in the sense that the president won't still be a player on the domestic scene. He's going to veto a lot of appropriations bills. He's going to very busy in terms of whatever goes into this energy bill that they're going to try to do this year. But on the ground scale, this is pretty much it. I mean he's already done his Social Security swing and he's already tried to extend his tax cuts indefinitely. And these things are just not going to come back. So he's going to be playing defense from here on out.

BRAND: Well, speaking of that, the Senate this evening is considering a no-confidence vote on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. What's going to happen there tonight?

ELVING: The Republicans in the Senate are not by and large very happy with the attorney general and several of them have said in public that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ought to resign. But they're also not willing to go along with this Democratic ploy, if you will, of trying to have a no-confidence vote, which has no legal effect and doesn't remove him from office.

So the Democrats are going to need 60 votes to proceed to formally discuss this tonight. And unless they get some Republicans to play ball with them, they're not even to get close to 60, and that will be that. They'll not go any further than tonight. But we shouldn't interpret that that's the end of the troubles for this attorney general.

BRAND: And meanwhile, the president is still standing by him.

ELVING: Indeed he is.

BRAND: NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving, thank you.

ELVING: Thank you, Madeleine.

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