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January 29, 2013

Capitol Hill responds to Obama's immigration proposal

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, lawmakers were cagey about the prospects of an immigration bill successfully making its way through the House and Senate this year.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it would be foolhardy to calculate the immigration proposals put forth by Obama Tuesday and an eight-member bipartisan Senate group on Monday without seeing the plans in legislative form.

“We don’t even have legislation yet, but I think there actually are things in the framework that appeal to me: the focus on visa overstays and focus on border security,” said Cornyn, who voted against the 2006 and 2007 immigration bills.

"I’ve got a good indication that there’s a bipartisan desire to go forward." McConnell said. However, McConnell said “I think predicting how one is going to vote on this package before it gets out of committee is something I’m not prepared to do.”

 Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he’s “cautiously optimistic” of immigration’s prospects in Congress. “There seems to be some momentum in the House to deal with the issue differently than in the past, so I am cautiously optimistic but there’s a big difference between writing down a set of principles and coming up with a bill.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, offered no clues on how the Republican-controlled House of Representatives would address immigration legislation.

“There a lot of ideas about how best to fix our broken immigration system,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “Any solution should be a bipartisan one, and we hope the president is careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate."

Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said “the dance is clearly in the House.

“Some of the quiet on among the House bunch is waiting to hear what the president proposes tomorrow,” Steele said.

Steele said the immigration issue represents a crossroads moment for Republicans, particularly in the House.

“You can’t go against the optics and the sound of the momentum,” he said. “The country is ready to move on this (immigration), as they are on guns and gay marriage. If they (Republicans) do scuttle this, you better have an alternative.”

He added that Republican leadership must “sell this (immigration reform) to the base”

Rep. Trey Gowdy, a tea party favorite Republican from South Carolina, welcomed a proposal that deals with immigration.

"The current immigration system is broken and inspires confidence in no one,” Gowdy said. “So, proposals which balance the humanity which defines us as a people with respect for the rule of law which defines us as a republic are welcome."

Some House Republicans have already signaled their opposition to the White House and Senate frameworks.

Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the former chair of the House Judiciary Committee, dismissed the Senate plan as amnesty on Monday.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, was equally scornful of the Senate proposal and Obama’s plan.

“The president has demonstrated he will only enforce the laws that he likes,” King said. “Promises of future law enforcement made under the 1986 Amnesty Act were not adequately kept by President Reagan. Why, then, would Americans accept the promise of this president?”             

--William Douglas   


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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