ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
REBECCA ROBERTS, host:
And I'm Rebecca Roberts.
Recriminations echoed across the U.S. Capitol today following yesterday's shelving of the immigration bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled the measure when it failed to gain enough support to bring a final vote. Republicans and Democrats blamed each other. Supporters of the bill say it's too soon to declare the controversial measure dead.
NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR: Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy insisted the glass was half full at a morning news conference, hours after the immigration measure he spent months crafting and guiding on the Senate floor came up a bit short.
Senator EDWARD KENNEDY (Democrat, Massachusetts): We are not giving up. We are not giving in. I'm encouraged by what the leaders said last evening that they have every intention of continuing the immigration bill on the front order of business for the agenda of the United States Senate.
NAYLOR: The immigration measure isn't dead, but it's gasping for life after the Senate, twice yesterday, failed in efforts to bring it to a final vote. Republicans said it was because Democratic leaders didn't allow them to offer enough amendments to make the bill more palatable. Democrats said it's because President Bush didn't work hard enough on behalf of the measure his administration helped to draft. Here's Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid yesterday.
Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Senate Majority Leader): The headlines are going to be the president fails again. It's his bill, not our bill.
NAYLOR: Republican Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the handfuls of Senate Republicans to back the measure, defended the president's efforts.
Senator LINDSEY GRAHAM (Republican, South Carolina): So he has spent a lot of his personal time talking to members of the Senate. I think he will come up on Capitol Hill next week. I am very proud of the leadership the president has given, and whose bill is it. Harry Reid says this is the Bush proposal. Harry Reid is right.
NAYLOR: In fact, the president is expected to make a rare appearance at the GOP senators' luncheon next week. Last week, he criticized opponents of the bill for calling it amnesty. Mr. Bush said that was empty political rhetoric designed to frighten people. Another Republican senator, Trent Lott of Mississippi, said the president didn't do himself any favors with those remarks.
Senator TRENT LOTT (Republican, Mississippi): I hope he concentrates on G-8.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NAYLOR: Well, why…
Sen. LOTT: His comments last week were not helpful. He needs to step up and say I'm not signing just any piece of, you know, junk you send me.
NAYLOR: Still, there are senators from the left and the right who are doing their best to block the measure. Overcoming their objections will be a challenge. Senate offices across the Capitol were deluged this week with calls from constituents vehemently, and at times virulently opposed to the measure. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says she has never seen anything like it.
Senator Dianne Feinstein (Democrat, California): I've listened to talk show hosts drumming up the opposition by using this word amnesty over and over and over again, and essentially raising the royal of Americans to the extent that in my 15 years, I've never received more hate or more racist phone calls and threats.
NAYLOR: Senator Lott says he told his staff to ignore the phone calls best as they could. Steve Elliott of the group Grassfire.org, which opposes the bill as amnesty, says his members sent more than 700,000 faxes and emails and made thousands of phone calls to Senate offices.
Mr. STEVE ELLIOTT (President, Grassfire.org): Senators such and Isakson and Chambliss in Georgia and many others received overwhelming pressure from grassroots citizens, so much so that we believed this made it very difficult for the Senate to pass the bill.
NAYLOR: That pressure is likely to continue from advocacy groups on both sides of the issue as long as there is any hope for life in the immigration bill.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.