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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.

The speculation is that Obama's schedule has been cleared to give him time to deliberate about his choice, which aides say could come any day now.

AfPak

The AfPak briefing will likely stray a bit from the subject of the ongoing war there.

With the New York car bomb suspect admitting that he received bomb-making training in the Taliban-controlled regions of Pakistan, the subject of how to confront terrorism in that country is likely to be discussed.

The 11 a.m. meeting is scheduled to take place in the Situation Room, and will bring together nearly two dozen of the president's most senior military and diplomatic aides, including Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, General David Petraeus and General Stanley McChrystal.

Crisis Watch

There should be no doubt now that the president's aides are concerned about the persistent storyline that the administration was slow to react to the oil spill in the Gulf.

The White House released a remarkable, 6,200-word timeline Wednesday that aims to spell out exactly how the administration reacted from the moment the explosion happened aboard the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.

Coming from an administration that often resists providing details about the "process" of governing, the document -- posted on the White House Web site and emailed to reporters -- suggests a desire to counter what they say is an unfair perception.

Updated late Wednesday night, the document is authored by White House Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Heidi Avery. It includes phrases like "The president is alerted" (April 20) and keeps a running tab of the response each day. "Total Response vessels: approximately 10 (April 23).

Unfortunately for reporters, it does not have time stamps for when things happened each day, so it's hard to build an actual "tick-tock" of events. But it's clearly an attempt to push back against stories which have suggested the administration was slow to act.

"We have compiled this chronology in the spirit of transparency so the American people can have a clear understanding of what their government has been and is doing to respond to the massive and potentially unprecedented environmental disaster," the document says.

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