President Bush is continuing to pressure the U.S. Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Prospects for quick action in the Senate are not good.
After an early morning meeting with congressional leaders, the president made a statement to White House reporters on immigration reform.
"This is a vital debate. I thank the members who are working hard to get a bill done," he said. "I strongly urge them to come to a conclusion as quickly as possible and pass a comprehensive bill."
The president's comments on pending legislation highlighted the difficulties lawmakers are having coming to terms on this controversial issue.
Debate in the Senate has been beset with parliamentary roadblocks, bringing work on the bill to a virtual standstill. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has set a Friday deadline for senators to complete their version of immigration reform legislation. But there are indications that deadline may not be met.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter predicts senators will head off on a holiday break this week still deadlocked on how best to reform the nation's immigration laws. He spoke with frustration Wednesday after another round of procedural wrangling in the Senate chamber.
"The technical rules have brought us to an absolute impasse again, and so again we have another day wasted," he said.
Patrick Leahy is the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He too complained about the lack of progress, and suggested the Republicans are to blame.
"Let us go back to having a Senate that will debate issues, and get away from the polemics," he said.
There is agreement in Congress that something must be done to tackle the problem of illegal immigration. But with more than 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States, there are deep differences on approach.
An immigration reform bill passed last December in the House of Representatives focused solely on border security and enforcement. Immigration advocates, who have been staging demonstrations in cities across the country, hope the Senate will moderate the House bill and add steps that permit illegal immigrants to get temporary guest worker status.