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.")