Amid healthcare woes, Obama to discuss immigration reform Thursday

Reuters

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON, Oct 23 (Reuters) - As the White House strugglesto fix the problem-plagued rollout of its healthcare reform law,President Barack Obama on Thursday will try to focus attentionon another policy priority - immigration reform - with a callfor congressional action.

The president, who listed immigration as one of threepriorities for this year after the 16-day government shutdownconcluded, will make a statement at 10:35 a.m. (1435 GMT) at theWhite House urging lawmakers to finish work on measures tostrengthen U.S. borders and provide a pathway toward citizenshipfor millions of people who are in the United States illegally.

"The president has made clear the key principles that mustbe a part of any bipartisan, commonsense effort, includingcontinuing to strengthen border security, creating an earnedpath to citizenship, holding employers accountable and bringingour immigration system into the 21st century," a White Houseofficial said on Wednesday.

"He will urge that Congress take up this issue in abipartisan way."

The Democratic-controlled Senate passed a broad immigrationreform bill earlier this year, but the issue has languished inthe Republican-controlled House of Representatives

The push for reform was drowned out in recent months bybudget controversies and Obama's healthcare law. Republicanstriggered the government shutdown in an effort to defund ordelay implementation of the law.

Since the shutdown ended, however, the law known asObamacare has dominated headlines because of its glitch-filledcenterpiece website, healthcare.gov. Obama pledged on Mondaythat the problems would be fixed, but the issue has become aheadache for him and his administration when it was supposed tobe his crowning domestic policy achievement.

Talking about immigration reform on Thursday could be aneffort to deflect attention from the White House's healthcarewoes. An aide to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, however,said the issue would not be taken up as one big bill like theSenate version that Obama supports.

Republicans were "still committed to a step-by-step approachthat gives Americans confidence we did it the right way, ratherthan one big Obamacare size bill that no one understands," theaide said, adding a jab at the healthcare law.

The White House official said Obama would be joined on stageand in the audience on Thursday by immigration reformsupporters.

"Commonsense immigration is good for the country and it'sthe right thing to do," he said. "It will grow the economy,reduce the deficit, and has broad support from both Democratsand Republicans, business and labor, as well as law enforcementand faith leaders."

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