WASHINGTON – Arguing that a bipartisan bill picking up steam in the Senate would put the nation's loathed deficits and fragile entitlements on better footing, U.S. President Barack Obama declared "the time for excuses is over" and trumpeted the economic benefits of an immigration overhaul.
A recent analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, lawmakers' nonpartisan scorekeeper, was Exhibit A in Obama's weekly radio and Internet address Saturday. The report shows deficits would fall nearly $1 trillion over two decades after the bill becomes law.
What's more, Obama said, the influx of immigrant-driven investment, technology and businesses would give the economy a 5 percent shot in the arm.
"This bipartisan, common-sense bill will help the middle class grow our economy and shrink our deficits, by making sure that every worker in America plays by the same set of rules and pays taxes like everyone else," he said.
Confidence that the overhaul could pass the Senate by impressive margins is growing, and leaders scheduled a test vote on the bill for Monday, with a final vote expected by the end of next week. Although the heart of the bill is a 13-year pathway to citizenship for millions living in the United States illegally, it was a military-style surge to U.S.-Mexican border security, added this week to placate wary Republicans, that was credited for giving the bill a much-needed boost.
Obama didn't specifically address the border amendment Saturday, but he did note that the bill "would continue to strengthen security at our borders." Despite concerns from some Democrats that the security provisions — 20,000 new agents, 350 miles of new fencing, 18 new unmanned drones — are overkill, Obama spokesman Jay Carney said Friday it would constitute a "breakthrough" that the White House applauded.
"The bill isn't perfect. It's a compromise," Obama said, reprising a line he's used throughout the process when Democrats have complained the bill has become too conservative. "But it's consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out."
In the Republican address, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota says Obama must show leadership to avoid an impending hike on student loan interest rates. He said it's fortunate that Obama and House Republicans agree on the issue and have both proposed plans that would tie interest rates to the market. He accused Senate Democrats of blocking each plan.
"If I didn't know any better, I would say they are content to let rates double," Kline said. "This eleventh-hour scrambling is a perfect demonstration of why we need to take the politics out of student loans once and for all."
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.