March 28, 2013 in Nation/World

Immigration bill may pass by summer, Obama says

President ready to step in if Congress fails in effort
Julie Pace Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

From left, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., talk about their tour of the border on the way to a news conference Wednesday in Nogales, Ariz.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama pressed for swift action on a sweeping immigration bill Wednesday, saying last-minute obstacles are “resolvable” and predicting Congress could pass historic legislation by the end of the summer.

In back-to-back interviews with Spanish-language television networks, Obama repeatedly voiced confidence in a bipartisan Senate group that appears to be on the cusp of unveiling a draft bill. And he said that while he is still prepared to step in with his own bill if talks break down, he doesn’t expect that step to be necessary.

“If we have a bill introduced at the beginning of next month as these senators indicate it will be, then I’m confident that we can get it done certainly before the end of the summer,” Obama told Telemundo.

While overhauling the nation’s patchwork immigration laws is a top second term priority for the president, he has ceded the negotiations almost entirely to Congress. He and his advisers have calculated that a bill crafted by Capitol Hill stands a better chance of winning Republican support than one overtly influenced by the president.

In his interviews Wednesday, Obama tried to stay out of the prickly policy issues that remain unfinished in the Senate talks, though he said a split between business and labor on wages for new low-skilled workers was unlikely to “doom” the legislation.

“This is a resolvable issue,” he said.

The president also spoke Wednesday with Univision. His interviews followed a citizenship ceremony conducted Monday at the White House where he pressed Congress to “finish the job” on immigration, an issue that has vexed Washington for years.

The president made little progress in overhauling the nation’s fractured immigration laws in his first term, but he redoubled his efforts after winning re-election. The November contest also spurred some Republicans to drop their opposition to immigration reform, given that Hispanics overwhelmingly backed Obama.

In an effort to keep Republicans at the negotiation table, Obama has stayed relatively quiet on immigration over the last month.

The president has, however, privately called members of the Senate working group, and the administration is providing technical support to the lawmakers. The Gang of Eight is expected to unveil its draft bill when Congress returns from a two-week recess the week of April 8.

While Obama tries to keep the pressure on lawmakers this week, four members of the Senate immigration group toured Arizona’s border with Mexico to inspect the conditions there. Arizona’s Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake were joined by Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Michael Bennet of Colorado for the border tour.

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