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Bush exhorts Senate Republicans to try to revive stalled U.S. immigration bill

Bush exhorts Senate Republicans to try to revive stalled U.S. immigration bill

President George W. Bush pressed divided Republicans on Tuesday to support him on immigration overhaul, saying "the status quo is unacceptable."
In a rare visit to Congress for lunch with the Senate Republicans, Bush said he recognized that immigration was an emotional issue and that many in his party do not agree with him. Still, he said, "Now is the time to get it done."
The measure supported by the White House, which legalizes up to 12 million unlawful immigrants and tightens border security, stalled last week in the face of broad Republican opposition.
Bush's personal effort to salvage the derailed bill came as key lawmakers reached for a deal that could quickly revive the measure. He needs to change enough minds among GOP senators to push through a top domestic priority.
"The White House will stay engaged," Bush told reporters after the lunch.
"Some members in there believe that we need to move a comprehensive bill, some don't," the president said. "I understand that. It's a highly emotional issue."
But it was unclear whether Bush changed any minds. His approach has sparked a backlash among some of the party's core supporters, who see the legislation as amnesty for people who sneaked into the United States.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking with reporters after Bush left, said the president's persuasiveness "will depend upon what it looks like in the end. And none of us know that yet."
"Look, we had a very, very good discussion, including some of our members who are not -- shall I say? -- keen on this measure, and others who are still taking a look at it and trying to decide how they're going to vote," McConnell said. "So it was a good give and take. We didn't expect anybody to stand up and holler that they had an epiphany."
Bush said he hoped Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who supports the bipartisan proposal, "has the same sense of desire to move the product _ or the bill _ that I do."
"It's going to take a lot of hard work, a lot of effort. We've got to convince the American people this bill is the best way to enforce our border. I believe that without the bill, it's going to be harder to enforce the border. The status quo is not acceptable," Bush said.
Bush has predicted he will prevail in his effort to win approval of an immigration bill. But his brief comments on Tuesday were muted, and he voiced recognition of the difficult work ahead.
Sen. Trent Lott, the No. 2 Senate Republican, called it "democracy working at its best" and said that Bush had signaled he "won't sign a bad bill."
"But he thinks this is an issue that needs to be addressed" and is "willing to work with us to get this job done," Lott said. "I hope that the majority leader will work with us to move it forward," Lott added.
Reid, a Democrat, had pulled the measure from the Senate last week when two efforts to cut short debate failed. The Democratic leader said he will bring up the measure again only if Democrats can be assured of more Republican backing.
The fragile package promises a path of legalization for millions of undocumented workers in the United States while tightening borders and offering employers more temporary workers. The bipartisan bill supported by the White House is cosponsored by Sens. John McCain, a Republican, and Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat.


Updated : 2021-10-18 09:30 GMT+08:00