The cloture vote’s scheduled for 11:50. Updates will appear here throughout the day. Bush’s people are optimistic — with good reason, says the boss, who has her ear to the ground. Go have a look at NRO’s editorial about the seven senators who could kill the bill outright today: six Republicans plus Jim Webb, who campaigned on an anti-amnesty platform last year. The WashTimes did its own count and sees hope fading:

Opponents of the bill counted about 32 senators prepared to block the bill and another dozen senators they said would swing today’s vote. But The Times found four of those swing votes said they will vote to revive the bill today: Republican Sens. Christopher S. Bond of Missouri and Thad Cochran of Mississippi, and Democratic Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Press reports showed others have also said they are likely to vote to revive the bill, including Sen. Richard M. Burr, North Carolina Republican.

Bond’s “yes” vote is the dumbest of all since he’s planning to vote no on the second cloture vote if his amendment — which calls for gutting the whole bill by stripping out the amnesty provision — doesn’t pass. Which it never, ever will. But to throw him and the rest of the anti-amnesty crew a bone, the three amigos have added an extra moronic, meaningless, purely symbolic if not actually self-defeating “touchback” requirement to the bill:

With a crucial test vote scheduled for today, Republican supporters of a sweeping immigration bill threw their weight yesterday behind a significant change to the legislation that would force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for legal status…

Kyl, Graham and Martinez had already put together an amendment to secure $4.4 billion for border enforcement, create a tracking system to keep tabs on guest workers and permanently bar workers who overstay their visas from returning. Those measures would augment provisions already in the bill to tighten border security and clamp down on employers of illegal immigrants.

Yesterday, the three senators added a provision that would force illegal immigrants to return to their home countries to apply for Z Visas, not just their green cards. With the architects of the bill behind it, supporters predicted that the amendment would pass easily…

Indeed, it was the Department of Homeland Security that wanted legalization not to be contingent on leaving the country, because DHS officials wanted to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows and into the legal system, Specter said. With the “touchback” requirement, millions may stay underground.

Everyone understand what’s going on here? They’re so eager to pass this piece of shinola, they’re adding provisions that will make it less likely that the bill will actually work just to get the votes needed to pass it. They’re trading practical viability for legislative viability. And it gets worse:

Two thousand more border agents are to be “hired, trained, and reporting for duty,” bringing the number of agents to 20,000; an additional 100 miles of vehicle barriers were just added, bringing that number to 300 miles; and 105 ground-based radar and camera towers are to be built, up from 70 just two weeks ago.

However, one Republican leadership aide told FOX News that the $4.4 billion is not nearly enough money to cover these substantial increases, warning against any guarantee that the provisions will be paid for down the road. “There’s no way that’s enough. So they’ll have to appropriate more, and there’s a big difference between authorizing and appropriating.”

Not nearly enough. Just like with the virtual fence they’re playing with right now in Arizona.

Jim DeMint’s talking tough by threatening to cut off limbs, but I think he knows who’s got the saw here and it ain’t him. Stand by for updates. I make no promises, but if the rabbit is pulled out of the hat and this crap dies today, we may just see a euphoric, celebratory cameo from Humping Robot to herald the victory. In the meantime:

Update: Freudian slip or the usual Bushian malaprop?

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: President Bush has spent a whole lot of time in recent months claiming that the immigration bill isn’t “amnesty.”

But in describing the measure Tuesday morning, an apparent slip of the tongue suggested otherwise — providing fodder for the talk-radio crowd that loathes the bill and wants it defeated in the Senate.

“You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric — you’ve heard it, too — about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you’ve got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that,” Bush said, according to the official White House transcript.

Update: A superb post at the Corner by Stanley Kurtz says what I suspect a lot of people — and by “a lot,” I mean millions — are thinking right now.

Somehow this immigration battle feels different. The bill is wildly unpopular, yet it’s close to passing. The contrast with the high-school textbook version of democracy is not only glaring and maddening, it’s downright embarrassing. Usually, even when we’re at each others’ throats, there’s still an underlying pride in the democratic process. This immigration battle strips us of even that pride.

I’m still stuck on the way this bill was going to be pushed through without a public airing of crucial provisions, in the two or three days before Memorial Day recess. But I should be stuck even further back–on the way this bill was cooked up in a backroom deal that bypassed the ordinary process of public hearings. We take them for granted, but those civics textbook fundamentals are there for a reason. We’re going to pay a steep price for setting the fundamentals aside…

Supporters of this bill sell it as a compromise that will heal America’s divisions. I fear it’s quite the reverse. This bill is infuriating the public and undermining faith in government itself. You can see it in the polling on confidence in Congress and the President. If this bill passes, it’s going to aggravate and embitter politics for years to come. Passing a measure over such overwhelming opposition is like slapping the public in the face.

Update: Norm Coleman, facing the onslaught of Frankenmania in next year’s senate election, will vote yes on cloture.

Update: The vote’s coming now. I’m going to liveblog it.

They’re calling the roll now, which, I presume, is just to see if everyone’s present. They’re not announcing how each one voted after reading his/her name so I guess the vote is right after this.

Wait, no — it looks like this is the actual vote. They’re not even announcing the votes as they come in. We’re going to have to wait until all the votes are in.

I count only 29 no’s thus far and most everyone’s voted. Jim Webb just voted yes. We’re going to lose.

Ensign just voted yes.

Update: It wasn’t even close. 64-35. There shall be no Humping Robot today, my friends — nor, perhaps, ever again.

Stand by for the roll.

Update: Like Lowry says, this gives shamnesty a cushion for the do-or-die second cloture vote on Thursday. Even if Sessions and DeMint can peel off a few supporters, the McCainiacs still have 60 to put it through.

Update: Here’s the roll of shame. The cloture vote on June 7th went 45-50; Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, actually switched from yes on that vote to no today. Which means the amnesty wing picked up a cool 20 yeses in the interim: Bennett, Bingaman, Bond, Boxer, Brownback, Burr, Coleman, Collins, Domenici, Ensign, Gregg, Kyl, Lott, McConnell, Murkowski, Pryor, Snowe, Stevens, Warner, Webb.

The boldface indicates Republicans, my friends. Sixteen of them — 15 no/yes switches plus Brownback, who didn’t vote on June 7th. Update: My mistake — I missed that Evan Bayh, like Stabenow, also switched from yes to no. And that Larry Craig switched from no to yes. That makes 17 Republicans who switched.

shame.png

Update: As mentioned above, the House GOP is planning a resolution this afternoon expressing its displeasure with the bill. According to Boehner, the White House isn’t happy about it.