West Wing Briefing

Obama wants immigration work to begin, but Graham thinks issue is dead

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 8:47 AM

The question of whether to move ahead this year with immigration reform -- and if so, how aggressively -- continues to draw the White House into a confrontation with the man who the administration had considered its lone Republican ally on the issue.

In a statement Wednesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) criticized President Obama for reportedly reaching out to other GOP senators on immigration, accusing him of pushing forward on an issue that has no hope of being addressed this year.

"Let's be clear, the lack of support for comprehensive immigration reform is not a Republican problem, it is an institutional problem," Graham said in a statement. "There is just not the appetite -- on either side of the aisle -- for this issue right now."

The statement baffled White House aides, who noted that it was Graham who, months earlier, had urged the president to reach out in a bipartisan way on immigration.

That was then. Now, Graham appears to have decided that immigration legislation is dead this year.

Obama, by contrast, keeps offering proponents of immigration reform a bit of rhetorical hope. At a Cinco de Mayo celebration Wednesday night, the president said he wants "to begin work this year" on comprehensive immigration legislation.

That statement was cheered by some advocates as a boost for their cause, but the very carefully-worded language appears to dim prospects of an all-out push for a bill this year. By saying he wanted to "begin work" in 2010, Obama seemed to recognize the inherent difficulties.

"Of course it's going to be tough, that's the truth," Obama told the crowd Wednesday. "We need bipartisan support. But it can be done, and it needs to be done."

Scotus Watch

The lack of events on the president's public schedule has the press corps on edge and preparing for an announcement of a Supreme Court nominee.

White House reporters have become used to a packed public schedule that has Obama going from one event to the next in rapid succession.

But for the last several days, the Daily Guidance that reporters receive has been strangely thin on public events.

Take today: the president receives his daily briefings in the morning, has a regular meeting with his Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and then has a private meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That's it.

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