WASHINGTON, Feb. 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday reached out to Republican lawmakers, calling to discuss comprehensive immigration reform, said the White House.
According to a White House statement, Obama placed calls to Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Marco Rubio to discuss " their shared commitment to bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform." The senators were key members of the so-called Gang of 8, which was working to overhaul the immigration system.
During the calls, Obama "reiterated that he remains supportive of the effort underway in Congress, and that he hopes that they can produce a bill as soon as possible that reflects shared core principles on reform."
Obama also said the reforms need to include strengthening border security, creating an earned path to citizenship, holding employers accountable, and streamlining legal immigration. The White House also said Obama is "prepared to submit his own legislation if Congress fails to act." The Gang of 8 is working to get a bill to the Senate floor as early as May.
In a statement, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said the Florida senator "appreciated receiving President Obama's phone call to discuss immigration reform," and told Obama that he "feels good about the ongoing negotiations in the Senate, and is hopeful the final product is something that can pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support."
Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was questioned repeatedly during a briefing about whether Obama had personally contacted Republican lawmakers on immigration reform, a top priority on the president's second term agenda.