- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2007

UPDATED / 11:37 a.m.

President Bush this morning proposed spending $4.4 billion on border security as the first step in a comprehensive immigration reform bill, in the White House’s latest effort to resurrect the bill that failed last week.

“We’re going to show the American people that the promises in this bill will be kept,” Mr. Bush said, in a speech to a meeting of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

Mr. Bush said he understands that “Americans are skeptical about immigration reform,” saying that an attempt at immigration reform in 1986 “failed.”

The White House has acknowledged this week that the bill, which stalled last week and was pulled off the Senate floor, failed in part because there is massive grass-roots skepticism about the government’s sincerity and ability to secure the border.

“The American people want a demonstration that we can actually do it,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Mr. Bush said that the comprehensive bill he supports does just what people are calling for.

“By moving forward with the bill in the Senate, we will make our border more secure. In other words, if you’re worried about border security, you ought to be supporting this bill,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush called on Congress to “set aside the political wrangling that tends to dominate the scene here in Washington, D.C.”

“We’ve got to summon the political courage to move forward on immigration reform. Doing nothing is not a solution,” Mr. Bush said.

“I’m confident we can pass a bill into law this year,” he added.

This amendment would be part of the overall immigration reform package, and is different from an emergency funding supplemental bill.

A supplemental, which is an idea floated by some GOP senators, would put money towards border security regardless of whether a guest-worker program and path to citizenship is passed.

Mr. Bush is not willing to give up on passing a total package.

“In order to have a system that works, all the issues must be addressed,” said the president.

The $4.4 billion would be spent immediately and then repaid out of fees and fines collected through the path to citizenship program and the guest-worker program, Mr. Snow said. He did not know where the money would originally come from.

The new spending is a good start, said Sen. Jeff Sessions, but won’t convince him to support the bill.

“What we need to do is to do those kinds of things and move step by step on enforcement,” said the Alabama Republican, who has become one of the leading conservative opponents of the bill. He said it’s right to put the money up front, but said it’s not right to use it as a “gimmick” to try to get support for the bill, and said Congress should instead focus on those things such as border security that can get majority support.

Mr. Sessions also said he will use whatever procedural tools he can to block the bill from being revived — a powerful threat in the Senate, where a single member can delay or block action.

“There are a number of senators who will utilize the powers of the Senate to avoid going back to the failed bill,” he said.



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