Mere hours before members of the U.S. Senate are scheduled to take a key test vote on comprehensive immigration legislation, President Obama will host a group of business leaders at the White House Monday to spur the lawmakers on.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to host a meeting at 2 p.m. with nearly a dozen CEOs, businessmen and entrepreneurs "to discuss the importance of commonsense immigration reform including the Congressional Budget Office analysis that concludes immigration reform would promote economic growth and reduce the deficit," a White House official said.
According to the nonpartisan CBO, the original Senate immigration bill would reduce the deficit by about $200 billion over the next 10 years and $700 billion in the decade after that.
Legislation looks poised to advance after Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee proposed a so-called "border surge" amendment that would add potentially 350 miles of fencing along the southern border and provide an addition 20,000 Border Patrol agents.
Mr. Corker was busy lobbying for the provision Sunday, touting both the border security and fiscal aspects of the legislation.
"I don't know how to make it any clearer," he said. "If the Hoeven-Corker amendment becomes law, 10 years must pass and there must be 700 miles of pedestrian fencing and 20,000 additional border patrol agents along the southern border before a Green Card is issued to those with [provisional] status. Reports that say otherwise are misleading."
Mr. Corker struck a similarly defiant tone on the fiscal aspects of the measure.
"I've been in the Senate for six years, and this is the first time that I've had the opportunity to vote on a bill that spends $46 billion over 10 years, and, in the same period, returns $197 billion to the Treasury without raising taxes and while promoting economic growth," he said. "I don't know of a business in America that wouldn't relish that return on investment."
Opponents of the bill in the Senate have questioned the CBO's scoring and decried the brief time period they will have had to examine specific language in the Hoeven-Corker amendment before the procedural vote Monday.
"[I]f your proposal is so good, then why not commit to extensive, open debate on it?" asked Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican and one of the legislation's most vociferous opponents. "Why do we have to pass this out of here before members go home to face their constituents over July 4th? Whose interests do we serve?"
The president has walked a fine line in terms of his involvement during debate on the sensitive issue. He largely ceded the drafting of health care legislation to Congress several years ago, only to see the process drag on for months. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the bulk of the law, Mr. Obama's signature domestic achievement, in a 5-4 decision.
Mr. Obama lobbied heavily to pass gun legislation in the wake of Connecticut's school shootings in December, but even a compromise measure on background checks failed in the Senate in April, along with more ambitious measures that would ban military-style, semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Per a White House official, the CEOs and business owners scheduled to take part in the Monday discussion are:
• Steve Case, chairman and CEO, Revolution LLC;
• Jason Berry, owner, Blueberry Farms of Georgia and Berry Farms;
• Farooq Kathwari, chairman, President and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors Inc.;
• Bricia Lopez, co-owner of the Guelaguetza Restaurante;
• Karen Lozano, founder and chief technology officer, FibeRio Technology;
• Sunil Puri, founder, First Rockford Group;
• Dilawar Syed, CEO Yonja Media Group;
• Alex Torrenegra, founder, VoiceBunny and Voice123;
• Hamdi Ulukaya, CEO, founder and president, Chobani.
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