White House will ‘be prepared’ on immigration if bipartisan talks stall, McDonough says

February 17, 2013

Newly-minted White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Sunday reiterated that President Obama will be prepared to offer his own immigration reform proposal if a bipartisan effort on Capitol Hill falls short.

McDonough's comments came on the heels of a USA Today report that said the White House is drafting a proposal to allow illegal immigrants to seek permanent legal residency within eight years.

"The fact of this report ...  I think all it says to me is that we are doing exactly what we said we would do," McDonough said on NBC News' "Meet The Press." "Which is we'll be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks going on the hill -- which by the way we're very aggressively supporting -- if those do not work out, then we'll have an option that will be ready to put out there."

Some high-profile Republicans expressed immediate concern about the proposal the White House is reportedly drafting. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is part of a  bipartisan Senate group working on immigration reform, said in a statement that "the President’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on ABC News' "This Week With George Stephanopoulos" that "leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction." The former vice presidential nominee added that "putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage to those who cut in front of the line for immigrants who came here legally, not dealing with border security adequately, that tells us that he's looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution."

McDonough said on "This Week" that the White House has "not proposed anything to Capitol Hill yet." He added that the White House has been working with members of Congress, and pressed them to act so that the president does not have to offer his own plan.

"We're going to continue to work with Sen. Rubio and others on this," McDonough said on ABC News. "But he says it's dead on arrival if it's proposed.  Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed. Let's make sure that that group up there, the gang of eight, makes good progress on these efforts, as much as they say they want to, and that's exactly what we intend to do, to work with them."

Sean Sullivan covers national politics for “The Fix.”
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Sean Sullivan | February 17, 2013