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Bush Faces 'Ferocious' GOP Divide on Immigration Bill


President George W. Bush made a rare visit to Capitol Hill to drum up support for the beleaguered immigration bill. Observers wonder if the bill still has a chance to pass -- and who, if anyone, actually wants it.

Bush Goes to Capitol Hill

On "Power Lunch," CNBC's Bill Griffeth hosted a triumvirate of veteran political watchers weighing in on the issue: Jay Carney, Time Magazine's Washington bureau chief; Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post White House correspondent, and John Harwood, CNBC's chief Washington correspondent.

Harwood said Bush has an imperative to get the bill "revived," as it's his "top domestic priority." The correspondent pointed out the wedge between social conservatives -- vehemently opposed to the bill -- and pro-business Republicans, who, he says, favor its passage.

Harwood quoted a conversation with Chamber of Commerce head Tom Donahue, who warned of an "absolute tragedy" for America's economy if "political baloney" sinks the bill.

Bush's success may be hinged upon his being willing to "listen" to both wings within the GOP, Carney said. The Time editor maintained that Senate Republicans are not monolithically opposed to the bill -- but on the "grass-roots" level, "opposition is ferocious."

Even those who favor it, Carney said, are not thrilled by it. "Trying to revive this bill is like trying to resuscitate a dead animal," he declared.

With such an unpopular measure at stake, does Bush have any bargaining chips?

Abramowitz said that Democrats seek assurances that "amendments will be limited." He pointed to Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), "concerned by the unending series of proposals from Senate Republicans" -- who allegedly sought to kill the immigration bill through attrition.