WASHINGTON — President Obama warned Congress on Wednesday not to let his plan to deal with the crisis at the border get bogged down in partisan wrangling, even as he teed up his arguments for another political brawl over immigration.
"If I sponsored a bill declaring apple pie American, it might fall victim to partisan politics," the president joked when asked if he was worried his $3.7 billion plan to bolster immigration enforcement would get caught up in Capitol Hill gridlock.
The president said passing the budget supplemental, as well as a separate plan to tweak existing law to make it easier for the government to turn back border crossers without the full asylum hearing currently required by law, was the only way for a short-term solution to the border problem.
"Congress has the capacity to work with all parties concerned to directly address this situation. They've said they want to see a solution," he said. "The supplemental offers them the capacity to vote immediately to get it done."
"There's a very simple question here," Obama said. "Congress needs to just pass the supplemental."
The president also once again called for House Republicans to allow a vote on a comprehensive immigration bill that stalled out in the chamber following a bipartisan vote in the Senate.
"The Senate passed a common-sense bipartisan bill more than a year ago. It would have strengthened the border, added an additional 20,000 Border Patrol agents," Obama said. "It would have strengthened our backlogged immigration courts. It would have put us in a stronger position to deal with this surge and, in fact, prevent it."
Obama rebuffed bipartisan calls for a presidential visit to the border at a speech in Texas following a meeting with that state's governor, Rick Perry. The Republican and several border Democrats have called for Obama to visit the border region where thousands of border crossers have been apprehended in recent weeks.
"There's nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on," Obama said. "This isn't theater. This is a problem. I'm not interested in photo ops; I'm interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they're giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I've already sent to Congress."
But when it came to Perry and Obama, who went through their own partisan theatrics in the past day or so, the president said the pair had found common ground.
"The bottom line is actually that there's nothing that the governor indicated he'd like to see that I have a philosophical objection to," Obama said, adding he wasn't opposed to dispatching National Guard troops to the border as Perry has requested. But Obama said he told Perry he needs Republicans in Washington to work with him if the border problem will be solved quickly.
"One of the suggestions I had for Gov. Perry was that it would be useful for my Republican friends to rediscover the concept of negotiation and compromise," Obama said.