President Barack Obama urged a group of business leaders including McDonald’s Corp. Chief Executive Officer Donald Thompson and Marriott International Inc. CEO Arne Sorenson to put pressure on congressional Republicans to pass a new immigration law by year’s end.
Rewriting U.S. immigration law would be “a substantive win for the U.S. economy and the American people and the businesses that are represented here,” Obama said as he and Vice President Joe Biden started a White House meeting today with eight chief executives the administration is enlisting to assist in the push.
Also attending were Roger Altman, co-founder of Evercore Partners Inc., and CEOs Stephen Schwarzman of Blackstone Group LP, Greg Brown of Motorola Solutions Inc., Joe Echevarria of Deloitte LLP, Marillyn Hewson of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Ed Rust of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., according to a list provided by the White House.
The president is seeking to pressure Congress to act as the issue of immigration has gotten overshadowed by the government shutdown and the flawed rollout of the enrollment website for the president’s health-care expansion.
“They seemed to be opening up and involving even more businesses in the dialogue and discussion and I think that’s important,” Thompson said after leaving the meeting.
Obama is backing legislation passed in June by the Democratic-majority Senate that creates a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented workers and is urging the House of Representatives to approve it.
The White House cites a Congressional Budget Office estimate that the legislation would boost average annual gross domestic product growth by a projected 0.3 percentage points over the next 20 years, compared with current law. The CBO also said that enacting the Senate immigration bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by almost $850 billion over 20 years.
Among its provisions, the Senate bill would make permanent the EB-5 immigrant investor program that grants permanent resident status to foreigners who invest above a minimum threshold in new job-creating commercial enterprises in the U.S.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and his Republican caucus show no signs of embracing the Senate approach.
“If the president insists on one huge bill that people don’t understand, we aren’t going to get very far,” Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman, said.
“The speaker has made clear publicly and privately that, while it’s important we address immigration reform, the House is not going to consider any massive, Obamacare-style bill,” Buck said in an e-mail. “Instead, we remain committed to a common sense, step-by-step approach that gives people confidence immigration reform has been done right.”
A spokesman for Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said the legislation would give companies of a flood of cheap labor at a time when unemployment is still high.
“This plan will lower wages at a time when millions are barely able to get by,” the spokesman, Stephen Miller, said in an e-mail. “It is special-interest politics at its worst.”
Obama said that while the “politics are challenging” in the Republican-controlled House, changing the law is gathering bipartisan support.
Obama is preparing for two trips this week that will include fundraising on behalf of Democrats in Texas and Florida, two of the nation’s most populous states, each with significant Hispanic populations.
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