( AP ) - President Bush, wading deeper into an issue that bitterly divides his party, hopes a personal appeal can help persuade skeptical Republicans to resurrect and pass his immigration bill.
Over lunch Tuesday in the Capitol, Bush planned an effort to change enough minds among GOP senators to salvage one of his top domestic priorities. The measure, which legalizes up to 12 million unlawful immigrants and tightens border security, stalled last week in the face of broad Republican opposition.
Bush "will talk about the fact that immigration reform is too important to let this opportunity pass, and this is the best opportunity that we have had in decades to reform the broken immigration system," said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman.
It's the president's latest and most overt attempt to sell Congress on the immigration overhaul, which was shaped by his views and drafted by an unlikely liberal-to-conservative coalition in close consultation with two Cabinet secretaries.
"I'll see you at the bill signing," Bush predicted Monday.
The measure exposes deep divisions among both parties, but it was Republicans who stood in its way last week when all but seven of them blocked a Democratic effort to put it on a fast track to passage.
Senate Democratic leaders have written Bush saying it is up to him to lean on Republicans to back the measure.
"It will take stronger leadership by you to ensure the opponents of the bill do not block its path forward," the letter said. "Simply put, we need many more than seven Republicans" to support the bill.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., said he will bring up the measure again if Democrats can be assured of more Republican backing.
It's unclear, though, how much influence Bush has among Republicans on immigration, given that it has sparked a backlash among some of the party's core supporters, who see it as amnesty for people who sneaked into the country.
Proponents of the bill gathered Monday evening to plot strategy for bringing it back. They were working to agree on a limited list of Republican-sought changes that could be considered before a final vote on the measure.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (news, bio, voting record), R-Ky., the minority leader, has said such a deal could allow the bill to go forward.
"There are a substantial number of Republican senators who believe that this bill would be an improvement over the current situation, over the status quo," McConnell said.