WASHINGTON -- Amid Republican opposition to most of his initiatives and gridlock in Congress, President Barack Obama Tuesday night held out hope for bipartisan progress on one priority: immigration legislation.
Obama gave House Republicans who blocked the Senate-passed comprehensive bill last year a nudge "to fix our broken immigration system," but he made no attack on them.
"Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same," he said. "So let's get immigration reform done this year."
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who led the immigration bill through the Senate, said, "I'm glad he talked about immigration reform. He did it the right way by supporting our overall goal but not getting into specifics -- he's letting Congress take the lead."
Backers of the bill say they're encouraged that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to test his caucus' views by outlining "principles for reform" of immigration at a House GOP retreat Thursday.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) described the approach in the Republican response to Obama's speech.
"We're working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest, and hardest working from around the world," she said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) also said Obama struck the right tone on immigration.
But King warned Obama could derail the process by trying to be "a one-man good cop-bad cop" -- reaching out to Republicans on immigration, but vowing to get around them by issuing executive orders or setting aside parts of laws.
House Republicans are expected to offer citizenship for children brought here illegally by their parents, but only a path to legalization short of full citizenship for 11 million other undocumented immigrants.
"If someone is going to support immigration reform, they should accept legalization and not hold out for citizenship," said King.
Maryann Sinclair Slutsky, executive director of Long Island Wins, a pro-immigrant advocacy group, said of the Republican idea, "It's a step, but we're staying true to our own principles" -- including the path to citizenship.