White House takes cordial tone with GOP on immigration

One day before the president is to deliver his long-awaited address on immigration, the White House seems perfectly content with letting Republican senators take the lead on sculpting a solution — and, very possibly, taking much of the criticism from those charging that the eventual policy simply makes instant citizens out of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Coming after months of briefings and official statements harshly denouncing Republicans in Congress for refusing to compromise on such issues as raising taxes, the remarks by White House press secretary Jay Carney at Monday’s press briefing were nothing short of extraordinary. To much of the media, this was the first time in memory that Obama’s top spokesman has said such kind words about current Republican Members of Congress — although Carney has praised “former Republican office-holders” who supported the Democratic president on raising taxes.

At the briefing, Carney said the administration “welcomes the efforts by a bipartisan group in the Senate” and that their plan “mirrors the president’s efforts.” Among Republicans in the group were Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who has worked for more than a year on an¬†immigration compromise package, and Lindsay Graham (S.C.).

“It’s an important first step we’ve seen from Congress,” said Carney, but, almost as if to make sure he wasn’t giving Republican lawmakers too much credit, he added that President Obama’s principles of immigration reform and the 29-page blueprint on the White House website “have been out for a long time.”

As to why the president is unveiling his own immigration plan in Nevada Tuesday, Carney shot back: “Why not? Nevada is a very important state” in terms of immigration. But, he said, one can be sure that Obama “will travel elsewhere to talk about this all-important issue.”

In terms of substance, Carney added nothing to what is already on the White House website. In terms of tone about Congressional Republicans on a hot-button issue,however, Monday’s remarks from the administration were unique.