Bush Hopes to Revive Immigration Bill
Friday, June 8, 2007; 8:44 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush, trying to recover from a stinging setback on immigration, will personally try in a visit to the Capitol next week to revive the embattled plan for legalizing millions of unlawful immigrants.
He began his hands-on approach Friday, placing phone calls to three key Republican senators from Air Force One during a European trip.
The calls and Bush's scheduled lunch on Tuesday with GOP senators are part of a campaign by the White House and allies in both parties to placate or outmaneuver conservative Republicans who blocked the broad immigration measure this week. They said Friday they would try again to reach accord on the number of amendments the dissidents could offer.
Opponents of the bill promised to continue fighting all such efforts, and some House members declared the legislation dead.
Democratic leaders accused Bush of being too tepid in pushing the legislation, which would tighten borders and offer employers more temporary workers from abroad in addition to providing lawful status to an estimated 12 million illegal aliens and putting many of them on a path toward citizenship
Many Republicans defended the president's role. But the bill's backers nonetheless welcomed his plan to attend the GOP senators' weekly luncheon in the Capitol for the first time in five years.
The visit was scheduled before this week's immigration votes, and Bush will discuss numerous subjects with Republican senators, said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "But certainly immigration is a topic" high on the list, he said.
Stanzel said Bush called GOP Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Trent Lott of Mississippi and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Friday. He said Bush and the three senators "are optimistic that this legislation will be brought back for consideration."
Bush also planned to devote his Saturday radio address to immigration.
Senate backers of the immigration bill fell 15 votes short of the 60 needed Thursday to limit debate and allow a vote on the measure itself. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then set the measure aside, calling it "the president's bill" and saying Bush's direct intervention was crucial to reviving it.
On Friday, some key Republicans agreed. "Whose bill is it?" Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a news briefing held by bill supporters. "Harry Reid says this is the Bush proposal. Harry Reid is right."
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, talking with reporters traveling with Bush in Europe, said the president "continues to be regularly briefed" on the legislation. The administration, she said, is encouraging Reid "to keep the debate open. It's a very important issue; people want to have conversations about it."