WASHINGTON – A controversial bill that would require states to verify the citizenship or legal status of anyone applying for a driver’s license likely will become law because Senate Democrats don’t have the votes to stop it, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Monday.
Aimed at illegal immigrants, the so-called Real ID Act is expected to be included in a final version of an $81 billion spending bill to fund the war in Iraq, according to Reid, D-Nev. House and Senate lawmakers will begin negotiating a final version of the spending bill this week.
Reid and most Democrats have fought for months against the Real ID measure and succeeded in keeping the plan out of the Senate version of the spending bill. But Reid said Democrats have decided they will not hold up passage of the Iraq war spending bill solely because it includes the Real ID Act.
Republicans “are going to keep the Real ID (Act) on the supplemental (budget),” said Reid, who opposes the measure. “They did it on purpose. They put it on the supplemental (budget), which we couldn’t stop” because both parties support the additional funds for U.S. troops.
President Bush has pledged to sign the bill if the House and Senate can work out their differences.
“We support Real ID,” Bush’s political strategist, Karl Rove, told reporters Monday.
Forty-one states require license applicants to document their legal status, but the bill would require states to perform more extensive verification.
In addition, there would be a uniform license in all states, and states would pay to redesign their licenses.
In the addition to the driver’s license provision, the Real ID Act would:
“ Make it tougher for foreigners to win political asylum by giving immigration judges more authority to decide the merits of their asylum applications.
“ Waive local environmental laws to allow the federal government to complete a 14-mile fence near San Diego that separates the United States and Mexico.