Obama, congressional leaders to discuss immigration reform

June 25, 2013 at 3:00 AM
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WASHINGTON, June 25 (UPI) -- President Obama is expected to talk about the push to overhaul U.S. immigration laws when he meets with congressional leadership Tuesday, an official said.

Obama and Vice President Joe Biden are to meet in the Oval Office with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as well as House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the White House said Monday.

The 3:35 p.m. meeting is closed to the press, the White House said.

The meeting, at the height of Senate debate over an amended comprehensive immigration reform bill, is expected to focus on immigration, along with other issues, including student loans, the White House official said.

Student loan interest rates are set to double in less than a week under current law.

Democrats and Republicans both say they want to head off the interest-rate increase for federally subsidized student loans to 6.8 percent July 1, but they disagree about how to do it.

Senate Democrats say they want to extend the government-subsidized 3.4 percent rate for the 7.4 million students with Stafford loans for two more years, while House Republicans voted last month to make the rate variable, tying it to prevailing market trends.

On immigration, the Senate Monday voted 67-27 to endorse a proposal to substantially bolster security along the U.S.-Mexico border as part of a comprehensive measure that would provide a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants in the United States illegally.

Travel delays prevented six senators from voting, including two Democrats expected to support the bill.

The border-security measure, written by Republican Sens. John Hoeven of North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee, would roughly double the U.S. Border Patrol force to 40,000 agents and complete 700 miles of new fencing on the Mexican border, up from 350 miles lawmakers originally considered.

It also lays out border-security measures that must be in place before people now in the United States illegally can get permanent legal status, or green cards.

The vote on the broader immigration bill is scheduled for Friday but could come Thursday if Democratic leaders and Republican opponents of the bill agree to wrap up debate ahead of schedule, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The immigration bill needs 60 votes to clear the Senate. Supporters have expressed hope the bill would get up to 70 votes to pressure the Republican-controlled House to support it.

Obama earlier Monday called for speedy action.

"Now is the time to do it," he said.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at his weekly news conference Thursday an immigration overhaul bill would pass his chamber only if it ensured "our borders are secure" and gave "confidence that those who came here illegally are not given special treatment, confidence that hardworking taxpayers are being respected and confidence that a majority of both parties have had their say and support the final product."

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