President Barack Obama backs a plan that would allow undocumented immigrants to become citizens after paying taxes and passing background checks, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said.
The president’s immigration priorities also include a crackdown on businesses that “game the system” by hiring undocumented workers and a revision of the court system to give people “a reasonable chance to get to this country,” McDonough said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“The system is broken,” McDonough said. “Tapping into qualified immigrants in this economy, over the course of time, is a great opportunity for us.”
Republican opposition to a citizenship plan helped scuttle a 2007 effort to overhaul immigration policy. That opposition has lessened since the November election, in which Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote.
USA Today reported today that an immigration plan circulated within the White House would allow undocumented immigrants to become legal within eight years. Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, told the newspaper that the plan was “half-baked” and “dead on arrival in Congress.”
The Obama administration is talking to all the parties involved and is anxious to see a congressional proposal it could work with, McDonough said on ABC’s “This Week” program.
“He says it’s dead on arrival,” McDonough said on ABC. “Let’s make sure it doesn’t have to be proposed.”
Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the chamber’s No. 3 Democrat and a member of a bipartisan group, which includes Rubio, that is working on an immigration proposal, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program that he was “very hopeful” a bill could be finished next month. “I think immigration has a very decent chance of getting done,” he said.
He said he knew that Rubio was “upset” about the leak of the White House proposal to USA Today. “We talked to him,” Schumer said, adding that Rubio “was fully on board with our process.”
Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin criticized the leak of the president’s plan as a partisan political move.
“There’s a way to do this through earned legalization, without rewarding people for having come in with undocumented status, illegally,” Ryan, who heads the House Budget Committee, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It’s clear that what the president is talking about does not do that.”
On the budget deficit, Obama is ready to work with Republicans on a plan to avoid automatic budget cuts to avoid crippling defense and programs vital to the middle class, McDonough said on ABC.
The president has a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion, and Obama will insist the changes happen in a “balanced way” which includes revenue increases, McDonough said.
While Republicans in Congress have criticized the president for not laying out a specific plan to avoid the automatic cut, known as the sequester, the president’s State of the Union Address contained plenty of details on how the budget can be restructured in a responsible way, McDonough said.
“This is not an ideological effort,” McDonough said. “This should not be a social science experiment. This should be a question where we ask ourselves, what is most important to the economy? What is most important to the middle-class families of this country?”
The U.S. economy stalled during the last three months of 2012, marking the worst quarter since the recession ended three and a half years ago, as defense spending tumbled by the most since 1972. Without action by Congress, the federal government is poised next month to begin the first round of $1 trillion in budget cuts set to occur over the next nine years, adding another potential drag to the economy.
The new White House chief of staff expressed confidence that a dispute over the Sept. 11, 2012, deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in an attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, would be resolved soon, leading to the confirmation of former Senator Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.
The administration has already provided detailed written responses to questions, McDonough said. There have been 20 congressional briefings and more than 10,000 pages of documents have been provided, he said.
“The president isn’t done with Benghazi,” McDonough said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “He’s demanded of us, since that night, to find out exactly what happened, and to make every reform needed to ensure it does not happen again.”
Senator John McCain, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and an opponent of Hagel’s nomination, said on the same program that he wouldn’t hold up the nomination any further even though the Nebraska Republican’s positions were “far to the left” of the mainstream.
“We will have a vote when we get back” from this week’s break for the Presidents Day holiday, the Arizona Republican said. “I’m confident he will have the votes.”
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