WASHINGTON (CNN) - A day before President Bush is to make a rare visit to Capitol Hill to try to salvage the stalled immigration bill, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell raised doubts there are any Republicans he can persuade on the issue.
"I think most senators have pretty well made well made up their minds," McConnell told reporters. "So, we'll be interested in the president's advice but I think this is not an issue upon which many people are undecided."
McConnell's nonchalance about the president's visit was in sharp contrast to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid who, in a floor speech and a letter to the president, urged "stronger leadership" from the White House to "ensure the opponents of the bill do not block the path to final passage."
Bush has a tall order ahead of him when he joins Republican senators at their weekly policy luncheon in the Capitol. Just seven Republicans voted with 37 Democrats and one independent on the procedural motion that fell well shy of the necessary 60 votes for passage.
That means Bush will have to gain support from 15 additional Republicans, many of whom share the anger conservative voters have about the bill.
Despite those odds - and the fact that Bush doesn't command the same political sway he did when his approval ratings were higher - Bush on Thursday was confident of passage.
"I'll see you at the bill signing," he said while traveling in Bulgaria.
And he wasted no time resuming his push for the bill. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters Bush made three phone calls from Air Force One as he returned from Europe, to Democratic Sens. Ted Kennedy and Ken Salazar, and to Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.
Perino said the president thanked the lawmakers for their leadership and commitment on immigration reform, and said he wanted to discuss strategy to bring the bill back.
For his part, McConnell said passage is possible. There are "a reasonable number of Republicans" who "are likely to help us get it through," he said.
But those Republicans don't want presidential arm twisting. They want a chance to modify the controversial bill, a chance Reid denied them when he moved to close debate before Republicans could offer a sufficient number of amendments, McConnell argued.
Republicans will demand they be given as least as many roll call votes as Democrats got when a similar bill was considered in the last Congress, which was controlled by Republicans, McConnell said.
If an agreement can be reached on amendments the Senate could return to the bill before the July 4 recess, Reid suggested.
"The bipartisan compromise, while it has its flaws, is better than the status quo, and I hope we can get back to it in the near future," McConnell said.
- CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett
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