Sounds promising but it’s pretty thin.

Even as the Senate voted Tuesday to restart the stalled debate on immigration legislation, Democratic support for the bill appeared to be slipping, and could jeopardize it as much as fierce Republican opposition does…

Several Democrats who voted to proceed with a debate — including Boxer, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Jim Webb of Virginia — also remain skeptical that they will be able to vote for the bill…

Webb said his support would be contingent on the fate of an amendment he planned to offer that would give legal status only to those illegal immigrants who had been in the country for four years or longer, and would eliminate a requirement that they return home first. If it passes, Webb said, he would support the bill. “If not, I won’t,” he said.

The WashTimes reports that “There are at least a dozen senators who have said that their ‘Yes’ vote yesterday was simply to begin the debate, and that they could vote to block the bill through a filibuster vote, or vote against it on final passage.” Except that’s not exactly an either/or proposition, is it? A five-vote switch tomorrow on cloture would kill the bill but a five-vote switch on the final bill itself on Friday wouldn’t since Bush already has the 51 needed to pass it if it gets that far. Are Webb et al. planning to go to the mat tomorrow or are they planning that sham two-step where they vote yes on cloture and then no on the final bill so that they can pretend to their constituents that they tried to kill this thing?

Incidentally, according to one of K-Lo’s sources, they don’t even have the final bill ready yet. The “clay pigeon” is full of errors so they’re in a holding pattern at the moment while staffers rework it in some back room. They’ll proceed directly to debate once it’s ready, of course, not pausing for so much as a day to read and digest it. Why? Because, as we saw yesterday, this is about legislative viability, not practical viability. A dramatic illustration of that fact per the WashTimes:

Two Republicans — Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — appeared so eager to revive the bill [yesterday] they initially voted the wrong way on a previous labor union rights vote, before catching themselves and switching.

The genuine good news is that even if it squeaks through the Senate it’s going to be a very tough haul for Pelosi in the House to push it through. Not only does she have a lot of different constituencies on her own side to herd but one GOP congressman pronounced the Senate bill DOA as far as the Republicans are concerned. Pelosi’s said before that she’d need 70 votes from Republicans to pass it; she ain’t getting them, so unless she was bluffing she’ll need to whip the Blue Dogs hard to produce a heavily Democratic majority. Think she can do it? Hmmm:

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), a key player on immigration, said the Conference resolution was not surprising but is unlikely to affect the game plan in the House.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find very many people in America who support the Senate bill, including House Republicans and House Democrats,” she said, adding that if the Senate can complete the bill this week the House will move quickly.

“Our mission is to have a bill that will be better” than the Senate version, she said.

If the House is the sticking point, you’d think the Grand Bargainers would let them go first and work with whatever bill comes out of there. But that would risk there being no bill at all, which would deny the Bargainers the glory of a capital-A Accomplishment, no matter how craptastic that Accomplishment might be. Think I’m kidding? Here’s the mouthpiece of Republican amnesty, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, finding a new and effervescent procedural reason to pass this travesty:

[I]n the near term, meaning through 2008, Republicans would be far better off helping President Bush and John McCain pass something that takes immigration off the table. If the issue remains central to the 2008 debate, it will divide the GOP and the media will play up the split. Given the passions that immigration evokes on the right in particular, the issue could easily drown out other domestic policy messages the candidates would prefer to run on.

Got that? So horrendously destructive is this sham to the Republicans’ electoral fortunes that the only thing to do now is pass it. Let me gently suggest that it’s a bit late in the day for the Journal to be fretting about that, and that perhaps the sounder course here with so much potential for divisiveness would have been not to introduce a bill at all. But short of that, here’s a killer idea for how to reduce the divisions, heal the wounds, and put everyone back on message with those ever-so-important other domestic policy messages the Journal is so worried for now: withdraw the bill. Or better yet, replace it with one limited to border enforcement with a promise to revisit amnesty in a few years, after we’ve seen some results. The public would love it, the base would be reunited with its, ahem, “representatives,” and the GOP would pick up a little of that steam it’s been losing for about five years now.

But it won’t happen, will it?

Read the full editorial since there’s also some fun stuff in there about Republicans needing to open the borders to woo Hispanic voters. Hell, we could probably woo even more by adopting all sorts of Democratic/socialist policies, starting with universal health care and yet another minimum wage hike. Why stop with geography?

Finally, here’s the obligatory link to the piece that’s going around about Robert Putnam suppressing his own research on diversity. You can guess, based on that fact, what the data reveals.

Update: Captain Ed says Webb’s amendment was torpedoed, 79-18. How about it now, tough guy? Is tomorrow the day?

Update: Here’s another potential no on cloture tomorrow. That’s two…

Update: No surprise here but Kit Bond is also a likely no. He’s said he won’t support the amnesty bill unless they approve his amendment stripping the, er, amnesty provision from it, so pencil him in.

Update: DeMint’s office sounds the alarm — as bad as it is, it’s even worse than we thought.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) released Wednesday a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) which says the new Senate immigration bill contains a major loophole in border security. Supporters of the bill say it provides $4.4 billion in immediate mandatory spending for border enforcement, but according to the CRS analysis, the funds could also be used immediately to implement the amnesty provisions bill

According to the CRS report provided to Senator DeMint on late Tuesday, the mandatory spending in the bill could immediately be used for Z visas. It says, “(r)eceiving, processing, and adjudicating applications for the Z visa authorized by Title VI of the Act is one of the trigger mechanisms outlined in Section 1; this means that funding from the Immigration Security Account could be used for this purpose.”…

“Not only can this money be used for things other then border security and enforcement, it looks like another backdoor trick to promote amnesty,” said Senator DeMint. “If Congress appropriates money later this year for the border, the money provided in this bill will turn into a slush fund the Administration can use to ensure illegal immigrants are legalized.”

Update: Here’s the PDF of the CRS report to which DeMint refers. Note the conclusion.

Update: The open-borders left rebels over the meaningless, self-defeating “touchback” requirement!

This amendment will undermine one of the central goals of the bill: To encourage undocumented immigrants to register with the government, pay fines, and reconcile with the law.

Requiring consulates to steel themselves for a flood of applications eight to ten years down the line is one thing; requiring them to gear up for adjudication of this deluge of in-person applications in the next two to four years is a very different story.

Update: A reader e-mails to say that people in Ben Nelson’s office told him Nelson is dancing the shamnesty two-step — yes on the meaningful cloture vote tomorrow and no on the meaningless final vote on Friday. Disgraceful.

Update: Domenici says the defeat of Hutchison’s amendment is a dealbreaker for him. He’s a no — and the Corner is starting to sound optimistic.

Update: Has Nelson changed his mind? Reader “Jaibones” says he just got off the phone with his office and was told Nelson’s voting no on cloture tomorrow.