Leaked option is called a backup

But White House should give panel time on immigration deal, two sides say.

Posted: February 18, 2013

WASHINGTON - Republicans and Democrats alike on Sunday predicted President Obama would fail if he pushed forward with his own effort to overhaul the nation's immigration system and urged the administration to hold off while lawmakers work on a bipartisan measure.

Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) predicted the administration's efforts would come up short if the White House went forward with a proposal to put the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country on a long pathway to citizenship. Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer, who met with Obama on Wednesday at the White House to discuss progress, urged his allies in the administration to give a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers the time to hammer out a deal on their own.

Obama's new chief of staff, Denis McDonough, said the White House would only send its plan to Congress if the lawmakers stumble in their efforts and cast its efforts as a backup plan. "Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed," McDonough said of the president's leaked pitch, first reported on USA Today's website late Saturday.

"We will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down," McDonough said in a second interview, adding he's optimistic they would not crumble.

The administration's proposal would create a visa for those in the country illegally and allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The proposal also requires businesses to know the immigration status of their workers and adds more funding for border security.

It drew immediate criticism from Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who is among the eight lawmakers searching for a comprehensive plan. "If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," he said.

Many of the details in the administration's draft proposal follow the broad principles that Obama previously outlined. But the fact the administration is writing its own alternative signaled Obama wants to address immigration sooner rather than later.

The tactic potentially complicates the administration's work with Congress.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), who was his party's vice presidential nominee last year, said the timing of the leak suggested the White House was looking for "a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution."

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D., Texas) called the leaked plan "incomplete" and said both parties in Congress and the White House need to work together.

McDonough appeared on ABC's This Week, NBC's Meet the Press and CBS's Face the Nation. Ryan and Castro spoke to This Week. McCain was on Meet the Press. Schumer was on CNN's State of the Union.

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