STICK A FORK IN IT….A couple of weeks ago, a confident president said his immigration package was going to pass. “I’ll see you at the bill signing,” Bush said. So much for that idea.

The Senate drove a stake Thursday through President Bush’s plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections.

The bill’s supporters fell 14 votes short of the 60 needed to limit debate and clear the way for final passage of the legislation, which critics assailed as offering amnesty to illegal immigrants. The vote was 46 to 53 in favor of limiting the debate.

Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics.

Sure, we thought the bill was dead earlier this month, and it came back for a second round, but this time it’s really dead. The AP’s “drove a stake” metaphor is telling.

The roll call on the key vote is online. The 46 votes to allow the bill to proceed were made up of 33 Dems, 12 Republicans, and Joe Lieberman. The 53 votes to block the bill included 37 Republicans, 15 Dems, and Bernie Sanders. Before David Broder blames Dems for the bill’s failure, let’s keep in mind that nearly 70% of the Senate Democratic caucus backed the legislation this morning, whereas 75% of the Senate GOP caucus voted to block the bill.

As for the winners and losers, the president couldn’t rally support from Republicans, a failure which ultimately did the legislation in. Immigration reform is the one major, sweeping policy area in which the White House and congressional Democratic leaders were at least near the same page. With this legislation falling apart, Bush appears to have lost his only shot at scoring a major legislative victory in the 110th Congress.

As for conservative critics of the status quo, I’m sure they’re greatly relieved by today’s “success,” but they may ultimately regret it. First, a hard-line conservative bill won’t magically replace the legislation they just killed. Second, as Kevin recently noted, their prospects for the future aren’t encouraging: “[W]hen do they think they’re going to get another crack at this? It’s going to be years, and at this point it looks to me like the political environment in the future is more likely to be more liberal than it is to be more conservative. My guess is that the hardliners aren’t going to get a better deal in 2010 than the one they voted down.”

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.