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April 15, 2007

Bush, Business Target Republicans in Last-Ditch Immigration Try

By Catherine Dodge and Jay Newton-Small

April 16 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush, with the backing of more than 50 business groups, is mounting an all-out effort to win support among skeptical Republican lawmakers for an immigration overhaul that may be his last chance for a domestic achievement.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff are meeting lawmakers weekly to build support for a plan that would combine a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, which most House Republicans oppose, with stricter enforcement. With the same frequency, Gutierrez is sitting down to plot strategy with business groups, which are also lobbying lawmakers.

Winning Republican support is critical because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, told Bush earlier this year she won't bring the immigration legislation to a vote unless the president delivers a significant number of House Republicans to join with the Democrats to pass it.

With Bush politically weakened by the war in Iraq and his popularity near record lows, his effort is ``much more about convincing and cajoling'' lawmakers than enforcing party discipline, says Representative Mark Kirk of Illinois, who leads the 40-member Tuesday Group of self-described moderate Republicans. ``I don't think he can push them into much at this point.''

To the Rescue?

That's where the business groups come in. The Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, a Washington-based umbrella organization that includes more than 50 trade groups and companies, says it has sent representatives to discuss immigration with all 55 newly elected House members.

Laura Reiff, the co-chairwoman of EWIC, which includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Home Builders and the biggest U.S. hotel operator, Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott International Inc., says members are regularly organizing ``fly-ins'' by trade-group representatives to lobby lawmakers.

There is also ``a new infusion'' of grass-roots involvement from small- and mid-sized businesses, says Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a Washington organization that favors free-market policies and backs immigration overhaul. State groups are contacting lawmakers when they return to their districts in Arizona, Texas, Florida and Colorado, she says...".

at http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=awp0itl4nPAU&refer=home

Posted by VisaLawyer at April 15, 2007 09:11 AM

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