The President, in a rare visit to the Capitol yesterday, looked frazzled as told reporters after a luncheon with Republican lawmakers that “Now’s the time to get it done” referring to the controversial immigration bill. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work and a lot of effort but we have to convince the American people that this bill is the best way to enforce our borders — I believe that without the bill its going to be harder to enforce our borders. The status quo is unacceptable.” Bush said.
Sens. Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott also spoke briefly about their lunch with the President and any progress that has been made regarding the bill.
McConnell said, “The President is very emotional in describing his feelings about the importance of doing this. He has made it clear that be believes this bill is a dramatic improvement over the status quo — I don’t think there was anyone in the room that was not impressed with the strength in his conviction on this issue.”
McConnell said that “the bill is about 80 or 85% of the way through before the finish line and we don’t have any interest in giving up on it.”
When asked whether he thought Bush had won over any more Republican senators McConnell said, “I think a lot of that 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 — So it was a good give and take. We didn’t expect anybody to stand up and holler that they had an epiphany.”
Later in the day Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a strong opponent of the comprehensive immigration reform spoke with Wolf Blitzer on CNN about the luncheon and his perception of what the president said.
Blitzer asked DeMint if he was ready to, “…sign away on the dotted line?”
“No, I’m not convinced. I don’t think there’s going to be a signing ceremony any time soon” said DeMint. (DeMint’s remarks seemed to keep pace with those of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who, earlier in the day, advised the President to “back off” this bill and help conservatives draft a better one. Sessions is a strong supporter of tougher border security measures.)
Blitzer asked DeMint a number of important questions such as if he would agree that this issue is splitting the Republican Party, and if the bill failed it “undermine the president’s credibility for the remainder of his term in office” highlighting that “he’s become a lame duck, given all the effort he’s put into this?”
Regarding the GOP split DeMint answered that, “The base is very united, but we’ve got certainly some senators on the Republican side who are supporting this. And I admire them for wanting to solve the problem. But unfortunately they’re trying to take too big a bite at this apple. We need to take some steps and prove to the American people that government can be trusted to enforce our immigration laws before we give amnesty to millions of folks who came here illegally. So I think some of my friends are on the wrong track here. They’ve got the best intentions, and so does the president. But this is not a good bill, and we need to step back and start over.”
DeMint said that he thinks if the President continues to push this bill that it’s that’s “more likely to undermine him than to say — we’ve listened, we’re going to take this step by step, and maybe come back next year and look at how to deal with the 12 million who are here after we’ve proved that we’re going to move ahead with real enforcement measures.”