Bush Vows to Revive Immigration Plan, Backs Gonzales
Monday, June 11, 2007; 9:30 AM
SOFIA, Bulgaria, June 11-- President Bush vowed Monday to do all he can to revive his plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, while dismissing as meaningless a planned Senate vote of no-confidence in his embattled Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.
Speaking to reporters near the conclusion of an eight-day European swing, Bush said among his first orders of business in Washington on Tuesday will be a visit to Capitol Hill to lobby Senate Republicans to revive the bill.
"I believe we can get an immigration bill," Bush said. "Now, it's going to require leadership from the Democrat leaders in the Senate, and it's going to require me to stay engaged and work with Republicans who want a bill."
The immigration bill is one of Bush's top domestic priorities. Its collapse last week in the face of strong opposition from both Senate Democrats and Republicans was interpreted by many analysts as evidence of Bush's weakened presidency.
Just last week, the White House ousted the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, before he served a customary second two-year term, after publicly acknowledging that Pace could not survive the Senate confirmation process.
Asked whether he had the necessary clout to influence the immigration debate, Bush said: "I believe we can get it done. I'll see you at the bill signing."
Bush worked to reassert himself in the debate last week, by calling three senior GOP leaders as he flew from Poland to Italy on Friday. Then in his Saturday radio address, he called on Senate Majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) to bring the bill back to the floor.
The president also dismissed as "meaningless" a planned Senate vote against Gonzales. Senate Democrats were scheduled to begin debate Monday on a symbolic resolution expressing no confidence in Gonzales.
"They can try to have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to determine -- make the determination who serves in my government," he said.
Bush described Reid's decision to halt consideration of the immigration measure Thursday night as a temporary setback. He said the legislation -- which would tighten border security, crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants and provid a path for such immigrants to stay and work legally in the United States -- is too important to remain derailed.
"We made two steps forward on immigration, we took a step back, and now I'm going to work with those who are focused on getting an immigration bill done and start taking some steps forward again," Bush said.
The president left Bulgaria a short time later and is expected back in Washington early Monday evening.