The Washington Times - July 14, 2008, 12:04AM

On the eve of John McCain‘s address to the National Council of La Raza, his campaign has clarified his border security first pledge, with top domestic policy advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin saying McCain may be able to push security without having to ask Congress for more tools, since the president already has many at his disposal.

He said that includes 700 miles of fencing and other provisions of a bill he and Sen. Lindsey Graham sponsored last year, after the collapse of the immigration bill.

“Those are the things that he would in a McCain administration move as quickly as possible to do, they require no new legislation, the money is there, the authority is there,” Holtz-Eakin said, responding to a question from’s Ed Morrissey.

That’s pretty specific and while it won’t please some border security advocates who want to go further still, it does give a more specific roadmap than Barack Obama has provided for how he would improve security.

But Holtz-Eakin’s answer raises another question: Does that mean there’s no need for another border security bill from Congress before lawmakers move onto a broad immigration bill?

I caught up with Holtz-Eakin after a health care panel at NCLR’s convention in San Diego and he said it’s not clear what steps McCain will need to take, but as a good-government advocate he doesn’t want to ask for tools if they’re not needed. So in short, McCain will need to see how the situation stacks up once he’s elected.

“We’ve got to re-evaluate where we are when he sets foot in office,” Holtz-Eakin said.

On another note, the Obama campaign charge that McCain walked away from his own immigration bill are irking the McCain folks. When during the health care panel Obama surrogate Thomas E. Perez, Maryland’s Secretary of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, kept accusing McCain of dropping his support, Holtz-Eakin finally had enough.

Pointing his finger at Perez, Holtz-Eakin said McCain showed courage on immigration that other politicians don’t have.

“John MCain put his campaign at risk for that effort. John McCain went back to the Senate and fought for this community,” he said, clearly irked. He said he’d had enough and would not allow “anyone to suggest otherwise.”

Stephen Dinan, national political correspondent, The Washington Times