WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Barack Obama yesterday embraced a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system put forward by a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, saying it was “largely consistent” with his own principles for immigration reform.
The Democratic president, who had said previously that he would submit his own bill if he was not satisfied with the Senate proposal, urged Congress to “quickly move” the bill forward and pledged to do “whatever it takes” to help.
He spoke after meeting with two of the measure’s chief sponsors, Senators John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, and Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York.
Obama’s endorsement and the bipartisan support for the bill improves its chances for passage but by no means ensures it.
The four Democrats and four Republicans sponsoring the bill likely face a months-long battle, with the biggest challenge expected in the Republican-led House of Representatives.
Some opposition surfaced yesterday, even though many House members, including Republican leaders, resolved to stay silent for the day because of the Boston Marathon bombing on Monday.
Republican Representative Lamar Smith of Texas slammed the senators’ plan and said it would encourage even more illegal immigration, favor foreign workers and treat illegal immigrants better than those who have played by the rules.
McCain, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama, warned that the defeat of any one of the key provisions of the complex legislation could jeopardize the whole effort.
He told reporters that it was “carefully crafted” to keep Republicans, Democrats and different interest groups on board and that if “certain things” were changed, “we would lose one side or the other.”
For this and other reasons, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, another of the bill’s sponsors, said the group planned on taking its time with the legislation.
“It’s a complicated issue and I think people want to learn more about it,” the Cuban-American lawmaker told reporters. “This will be a while. This is not going to be done in a week or quite frankly in a month.”