Sunday, 17 Feb 2013 05:44 PM
A defensive White House Sunday insisted it was only drafting a backup immigration reform plan in case a bipartisan congressional committee working on a bill fails, but Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and other key Republicans blasted a leaked copy of the measure, calling it "dead on arrival" on Capitol Hill.
Ryan, R-Wisc., called the leaked proposal "counterproductive" on ABC's "This Week" and questioned the president's motives, accusing him of seeking a partisan advantage instead of finding a solution.
"Leaking this out does set things in the wrong direction," he said. "By putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage to those who cut in front of the line...that tells us he's looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution."
"There are groups in the House and Senate working together to get this done," he said, "and when he does things like this, it makes it much more difficult to do that. And that's why I think this particular move - very counterproductive."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., another lawmaker involved in the bipartisan congressional immigration talks, agreed.
“Leaks don't happen in Washington by accident,” McCain said. “Does the president really want a result, or does (he) want another cudgel to beat up Republicans so that he can get political advantage in the next election?
McCain complained that the president "has had no communication with Republicans on the issue, unlike the previous four presidents that I've dealt with."
But White House Chief of staff Denis McDonough said the administration hoped that bipartisan efforts would deliver a broadly acceptable package, but wanted a plan B.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle are anxious to tackle immigration reform, after the increasingly influential Latino vote turned out heavily in favor of President Barack Obama and his Democrats in the November 2012 election.
USA Today said on Saturday that a draft of a White House immigration proposal would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years.
The plan, obtained by the newspaper, also would provide for more security funding and require businesses to check the immigration status of new hires within four years.
Obama emphasized in last week's State of the Union address the importance of creating a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Many Republicans stress that the nation's borders must be secured first.
Sen. Marco Rubio, the key Republican on the issue and one of the eight senators on the committee crafting the legislation, dismissed the White House draft as a seriously flawed rehash of failed immigration policies that would make the country's immigration problems worse.
"If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," Rubio, who is a Cuban-American from Florida, said in a statement on Saturday.
According to USA Today, illegal immigrants could also apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under the White House's draft bill. If approved, they could apply for the same provisional legal status for spouses or children living outside the country, according to the draft.
Conservative Republicans like Senator Rand Paul want borders to be first secured before they can endorse any immigration reform.
"I will support it on one condition: That we have a report that says the borders are being secured ... (it has to be) a report and comes back and is voted on in Congress," Paul said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I won't do it on a promise from President Obama, that he will secure the borders," Paul, from Kentucky, added.
Reuters wire service contributed to this story.