The White House has sent out a not-so-subtle hint that it would is ready to consider the "piecemeal" or "incremental" solution to the immigration problem that House Republicans appear to favor overwhelmingly.
At Thursday's White House briefing for reporters, Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked flatly whether President Barack Obama would reject the "piecemeal" approach to immigration "if it were to come out of the House and Senate after they go to conference, particularly if it doesn’t include a path to citizenship for the undocumented?"
Carney made it clear that the president preferred a "comprehensive" approach to immigration reform, but he did not rule out that Obama would sign individual pieces of legislation instead of the broad package enacted by the Senate and backed by the president.
"The president has always made clear that the right way to do this is comprehensively and that the criteria he laid out are essential to successful comprehensive immigration reform," said Carney. "And among those criteria were improved border security and a clear pathway to citizenship, a mechanism to improve legal immigration, and also, of course, to ensure that everybody was playing by the same rules, including all businesses in their hiring."
"If that's accurate — and I'll leave it to you to decode [Carney's] response — that's huge," Republican Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana told Newsmax shortly after the White House briefing.
Rokita said that when he and his fellow House Republicans met in a conference meeting to discuss immigration this week, "there was a lot of basic agreement to do a lot of different things."
These specifically included "action on border security, E-Verify, visa reform and a temporary-worker program," according to Rokita.
But he also made it clear there was little sentiment among House Republicans for the "path to citizenship" for illegal immigrants, pushed by Democrats such as New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and supported by the president.
"Who says we have to move on doing something about the 11 million [illegal immigrants] now, just because Schumer says we do?" Rokita asked.
Rokita said there was strong feeling among Republicans at the conference meeting to "secure a commitment" from the House leadership that if House and Senate bills go to conference, the House side would be instructed to stay away from "anything near a 'path to citizenship.'"
His view was strongly echoed by another participant in the Republican conclave, Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson, who told Newsmax: "Any move to go to conference where the Senate bill has the upper hand will be strongly opposed. And we will just continue to keep working for the things [House Republicans] are united on: border security and to do something about allowing workers we need to move the U.S. forward, such as mathematicians and scientists."
As for a "path to citizenship," Johnson said: "There is no stomach for amnesty. It just isn't going to fly."
The White House, of course, sees it differently. But in again emphasizing that "we need to act on comprehensive immigration reform," Carney did not rule out the approach of House Republicans.
"Our takeaway from the readouts of the meeting in the House is that there is a recognition that action has to be taken here. And we consider that a good sign that progress is possible," Carney said.
As to whether the White House actually believes addressing the issue in piecemeal form is "a good sign" will be a telling moment in the ongoing immigration debate.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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