Aboard Air Force One
En Route Santa Ana, California
8:37 A.M. PDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right, good morning, everybody. Let me quickly go over the day, and then I’ve got one announcement on the schedule for you all.
First of all, when we land, the President will be speaking on immigration reform, and he’ll be talking about the importance of getting comprehensive immigration reform passed. He’ll talk about the — I expect he’ll talk about the agreement that was reached in the Senate. It was a good, bipartisan agreement, yet it was blocked by some procedural gimmicks by the Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid.
I think also in the President’s remarks he’ll talk about the war on terrorism, and he’ll talk about Iraq and the recent developments there, with the selection of the top seven leaders, and talk about this important milestone and how it really is an opportunity to begin a new chapter with the new Iraqi leaders as we move forward and continue to support them on their path to democracy.
Then, following that, we go to Las Vegas, and he’ll make remarks at the reelection fundraiser for Congressman Porter, and then we’re back in D.C. this evening.
Now one announcement on the schedule. The President will welcome Uruguayan President V zquez to the White House on May 4th. The meeting will provide the two leaders with an opportunity to share views on topics of mutual interest. The President looks forward to discussing with President V zquez a full range of bilateral and international issues, including Uruguay’s important contributions to global peacekeeping efforts, especially in Haiti, and our shared goals of free trade and the rule of law in the hemisphere. And we’ll put that statement out shortly, when we land.
That’s all I’ve got to begin with.
Q: Will his remarks on Iraq be similar to yesterday?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, these — it’s not formal remarks. He’ll be kind of hitting some key points, but I expect he’ll touch on some of what he did over the last couple of days, and talk about the new chapter that this begins on Iraq’s path to democracy.
Q: On the immigration thing this morning, is there going to be any new wrinkles in the remarks we ought to be alert to?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one of the things that he will continue to emphasize, the importance of getting a comprehensive piece of legislation passed. There was a good, bipartisan agreement reached. He wants to see the Senate press forward and get a comprehensive bill passed. Unfortunately, you had the democratic leader in the Senate using procedural gimmicks to block it from moving forward. And that’s what the President will talk about — what we’ve done to strengthen our borders, and the additional steps we want to take to build upon that, and then also the importance of a temporary guest worker program to fixing the immigration system.
Q: Frist is supposed to be putting in, or trying to put in about $2 billion into the supplemental for added enforcement, and stuff like that.
MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?
Q: Frist is supposed to be putting in $2 billion in the supplemental for added enforcement. What does the White House think —
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we’re all committed to taking additional steps to strengthen our border. And the Senate is coming back, and they’re taking up the emergency spending legislation. We want to see them move forward on that in a way that meets important priorities, and that is done so in a fiscally responsible way. We want to make sure that our troops have the resources they need, and that’s why it’s important to act quickly on the spending legislation. We want to make sure that we continue to support the people along the Gulf Coast as they’re rebuilding their communities.
But in terms of border security, we all have a shared commitment to making sure that our borders are secure. And part of making sure our borders are secure is having a temporary guest worker program, because that will relieve pressure off the borders. And the President, I expect, will talk about that again in his remarks today.
Q: How can the President just solely blame Senator Reid for blocking the bill, when it also has had considerable trouble because of the dissension in the Republican ranks?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think it’s the President; I think it’s a lot of people. I mean, I’ve seen editorials across the U.S. point to the fact that he used procedural gimmicks to stop debate from moving forward. It’s important for all voices to be heard in a debate that is this emotional. And the President — I think the President will again talk about the importance of conducting this debate in a civil way. This is a difficult issue, it’s a complex issue, and the fact of the matter is that the senators came together, senators of both parties had a promising solution to move forward on comprehensive reform. And one person stood in the way of that moving forward.
Q: I guess my point is, in addition to singling out Reid, will he also address members of his own party, and ask them to come together and stop fighting, because that is also preventing a final —
MR. McCLELLAN: Republicans and Democrats have come together. No, it’s Senator Reid’s procedural gimmicks that stopped it from moving forward before the recess. There was a real opportunity to get it passed before the recess, and Senator Reid stood in the way of that.
Q: You called this a good, bipartisan agreement, but it does create a new path to citizenship for those who have been here for five years or longer, and a new path for those who have been here two years or longer. That seems to violate the President’s principles.
MR. McCLELLAN: The President’s principles are very clear, and he’s spelled out that, and he’ll talk again about how he’s opposed to amnesty. And I think he’ll talk about that in his remarks, as well.
But this was a good compromise that was reached, and the President expressed that. Now, what we wanted to see was that compromise get to conference committee so we could work out the details of the final piece of legislation. This was a vehicle that would keep comprehensive reform moving forward. And that’s what we emphasized.
Q: Talk specifically about that issue of the provision that would allow those who have been here five years or longer to get citizenship without having to return home.
MR. McCLELLAN: We actually put out a statement of administration policy when the bill was out. And we reiterated what the President has previously said, that there should be no automatic path to citizenship, that people who want to apply for citizenship would have to get in line just like everybody else, and they would have to get at the back of the line, not at the front of the line. And that remains the President’s view.
Q: One more —
Q: Bin Laden tape at all today?
MR. McCLELLAN: I didn’t talk to him about it, so I don’t — like I said, it’s not formal remarks. It’s not something that’s necessarily part of his remarks. But he’s going to talk about the broader war on terrorism, talk specifically, I think, about Iraq as part of that.
Q: Chertoff’s announcement last week, the stepped up enforcement effort, the timing of that, how does that fit into the debate, and why did it take two years? I guess the President talked in January of 2004 —
MR. McCLELLAN: I don’t think that’s the case. We will continue to take steps to beef up security along the borders. The President will talk about that again in his remarks. We’ve continued to take steps to improve interior enforcement, as well. And Secretary Chertoff, at the President’s direction, has been moving forward on a number of efforts, and we’ve beefed up the number of border patrols, we’re deploying new technologies along the border. We want to make sure that the southern border is as secure as it can be. And we’re going to continue to enforce our laws. As the President said, this has — we are a nation of laws. We’re also a nation — a welcoming nation, a nation of immigrants. And you can have both.
Okay? Thank you.
END 8:44 A.M. PDT