Bush Comes Up Empty

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, June 13, 2007; 1:28 PM

It used to be that he didn't even have to ask. Republican lawmakers fell in line behind President Bush, pretty much no matter where he was heading.

Not anymore. Bush went to Capitol Hill at lunchtime yesterday to beseech senators from his own party to help him revive the near-dead immigration bill -- his last best chance at a significant legacy other than the war in Iraq.

They gave him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, listened politely, then sent him home with nothing to show for his efforts.

Jonathan Weisman writes in The Washington Post: "In a rare visit to Capitol Hill, President Bush pressed Republican senators yesterday to resurrect the compromise overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, but many of the senators instead demanded that his administration first show a more determined commitment to border security. . . .

"He and senior administration officials painted the meeting -- coming five days after the collapse on the Senate floor of the tenuous compromise on immigration -- as a rescue session. Bush made an impassioned plea for the legislation, saying 'the status quo is unacceptable.' . . .

"Although senators described the meeting as cordial, even jovial, they also said the president's efforts to rally GOP support did not win any converts. . . .

"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) marveled at the president's passion and commitment. But, he added: 'We didn't expect anyone to stand up and holler that they had an epiphany.'

"And, apparently, nobody did."

Nicole Gaouette and Maura Reynolds write in the Los Angeles Times: "Republican senators on Tuesday told President Bush that his administration's lack of credibility in the fight against illegal immigration was a major hindrance to passing overhaul legislation, and they urged him to ask for emergency funds to ramp up enforcement."

Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny write in the New York Times: "In a trip to Georgia two weeks ago, Mr. Bush angered critics of the bill when he suggested opponents were spreading 'empty political rhetoric trying to frighten our citizens.' But those who attended the lunch said that the questions to the president and the exchanges were cordial and substantive and that the president did not take aim at conservatives who helped torpedo the legislation last week.

"'He made clear that he wasn't there to threaten anybody or do anything that would be hostile to anybody who disagrees with him,' said Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading opponent of the bill. 'He was there to appeal to our sense of commitment to do the right thing.'

"But like several others, Mr. Sessions said that he had not been won over by Mr. Bush and that he would oppose any move to bring the legislation back quickly for a vote."

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