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Obama calls Rubio, other GOP senators on immigration

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at a Las Vegas high school in January.

Associated Press

President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform at a Las Vegas high school in January.

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama took to the phones Tuesday to quell rising tensions with Senate Republicans after a draft of a White House immigration plan was somehow leaked to the media.

Obama spoke with Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida — three of the four Republican members of a Senate bipartisan group of eight seeking to create a legislative compromise on overhauling the nation's immigration system.

The White House said Obama called the senators to discuss "their shared commitment to bipartisan, common-sense immigration reform." The fourth Republican member of the group, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, was traveling, but the White House said that Obama hoped to talk to him in the near future.

Obama's calls represented at least a tacit acknowledgment that the White House had been laggard in its political outreach to the Senate Republicans who are part of the bipartisan group, and that it was beginning to pay a political price.

"The president reiterated that he remains supportive of the effort under way in Congress, and that he hopes that they can produce a bill as soon as possible that reflects shared core principles on reform," the White House said in a statement. The statement also reiterated that the president "is prepared to submit his own legislation if Congress fails to act." A leaked draft of the White House immigration plan, which includes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants — with none of the border security triggers that most Republicans favor — set off a round of Republican recriminations last weekend. Rubio called the president's plan "half-baked and seriously flawed," as well as "dead on arrival." (The White House said Tuesday that the leak "was not an intentional release.")

White House, GOP argue over cuts

The fight between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans over the automatic spending cuts that start March 1 continued Tuesday. Obama surrounded himself with firefighters and other first responders at the White House, where he said Republicans would be at fault if the $1.2 trillion in spending reductions take effect and cost the jobs of emergency personnel. Republicans fought back by seeking to portray Obama as the mastermind of the reductions.

New proposal

to reduce deficit

The leaders of President Barack Obama's 2010 deficit commission offered a $2.4 trillion plan Tuesday to reduce the debt as Congress approaches a March 1 deadline for averting across-the-board federal spending cuts. The proposal by Democrat Erskine Bowles, President Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, and Republican Alan Simpson, a former senator from Wyoming, would accomplish debt savings over 10 years in steps, rather than through one piece of legislation.

Times wires

Obama calls Rubio, other GOP senators on immigration 02/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 11:34pm]
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