White House Hedges Bets on Immigration Bill

As debate in the Senate on an immigration reform package gets under way, the White House is not sending any signals as to what kind of final bill the President will sign.

At this morning’s press briefing, I asked whether the President would veto the final bill if the Senate follows the House and passes an immigration measure with greater border security and punishment for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants—but without the guest worker program so strongly advocated by Bush.

“We have a long way to go,” Press Secretary Scott McClellan told me, adding that I was asking “a lot of ‘what ifs.’”  The President’s top spokesman went on to say that Bush will “talk about his vision of comprehensive immigration reform” in the coming weeks and highlight three key points: secure border; strengthen interior enforcement; and what McClellan called “a temporary worker program to relieve pressure off [the Border Patrol],” so that law enforcement officials can focus on pursuit drug dealers and other criminal elements.

But I pressed the point: Would the President veto a bill that didn’t include the third key point—the temporary worker program?  Replied McClellan:  “We’ll keep you posted as we go forward.”


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