WASHINGTON – The White House on Tuesday sought to keep delicate immigration negotiations on track, as a key GOP senator distanced himself further from a draft bill President Obama's aides are readying in case congressional talks crumble.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's office said Obama's plan "injected additional partisanship into an already difficult process." The White House, following the weekend leak of its draft, insisted the president wants the bipartisan Senate group Rubio is a member of to put forward its own bill.
Obama spoke with Rubio on Tuesday to reiterate his commitment to the Senate process, the White House said. The president also called GOP Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, two other lawmakers involved in the talks.
"It is, by far, the president's preference that the Senate process move forward, that the bipartisan group of eight have success, and that they produce a bill that wins the support of Democrats and Republicans in Senate," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
Senate aides said privately Tuesday that bipartisan negotiations are in a good place and they did not feel as though the disclosure of details in Obama's draft bill would disrupt their process. In fact, Obama's backup bill could end up spurring GOP lawmakers to rally behind a congressional plan with many similarities rather than support legislation attached to the president.
While they differ on details, both sides are contemplating a plan to provide a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, tighten border security, and crack down on businesses that employ illegal workers.