President Bush says the Senate Democratic Party leader is responsible for the failure of compromise legislation on immigration moving forward.
On Thursday, Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate reached a broad compromise on immigration reform. But, by Friday, the deal was on the verge of completely collapsing, after a series of procedural votes failed to move the measure forward.
President Bush supports the compromise bill, which would offer eventual citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants. In his weekly radio address Saturday, he blamed Senate Minority leader Harry Reid, who, Mr. Bush said, blocked the bill when he refused to allow votes on more than three Republican-backed amendments to the legislation. "I call on the Senate Minority Leader to end his blocking tactics, and allow the Senate to do its work, and pass a fair, effective immigration reform bill," he said.
Senator Reid says he objected to the amendments, because he believed they were intended to weaken essential parts of the legislation. He also denied accusations by some Republican leaders that he is trying to put roadblocks in the way of passing the bill for political reasons. Immigration reform is an emotionally-charged issue, and this is an election year for many in Congress.
President Bush wants comprehensive immigration reform that will secure U.S. borders, strengthen the enforcement of laws and include a temporary worker program, which he says will relieve pressure on America's border. But the president has firmly rejected rewarding those who came to the United States illegally with citizenship. "We must ensure that those who break our laws are not granted an automatic path to citizenship," he said.
Congress recessed Friday for two weeks, putting on hold the effort to move comprehensive immigration reform forward.
Meanwhile, in the Democratic radio address, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the United States is not as safe as it should be, because of failures by the Bush administration and the Republican-dominated Congress. Hoyer said ports, mass transit systems and chemical and nuclear plants are still vulnerable, nearly five years after the September 11, terrorist attacks. "Today, unfortunately, our nation and our people are not as safe as they could - and should - be. Too often, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have failed to back up their rhetoric with robust action," he said.
National security has been President Bush's main focus since the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. Opposition Democrats have been trying to strengthen their national security credentials, ahead of November elections.
President Bush has blamed the Senate Democratic leader for blocking passage of a controversial immigration reform bill that would give many of the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to earn citizenship.
Mr. Bush said on U.S. radio Saturday that Senator Harry Reid's refusal to allow more than three amendments to the bill is keeping the legislative body from doing its work.
Democrats, however, have blamed majority Republicans for the deadlock, saying that the proposed amendments were aimed at gutting the bipartisan, compromise bill announced on Thursday.
The compromise fell apart Friday in an argument over amendments that would limit who would be eligible for citizenship. The bill's supporters failed to get enough votes to end debate before the start of a two-week spring recess.
The senators say they hope to take up the measure again after they return.
Some Democrats are also concerned the bill would be gutted when it comes up for negotiations with lawmakers from the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The House has approved a tougher bill which makes illegal immigration a major crime.
The immigration debate has sparked protests across the nation.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.