George LeMieux says he told President Obama (during a call from Air Force One) that he's willing to work on immigration reform. He said Sens. Charles Schumer and Lindsay Graham identified the Florida Republican as someone "who might be good to bring in" to the conversation. (LeMieux's predecessor, Mel Martinez, was one of few GOP'ers to embrace a path to citizenship for undocumented workers)
"I believe it's a challenge the country needs to face and I'd be willing to meet and review proposals," LeMieux said, noting he hasn't seen anything yet in writing. LeMieux said Obama told him immigration reform is something he wants to accomplish this year. "He was trying to see if there was a willingness for me to be part of the process and I think I have a responsibility to do so."
LeMieux didn't rule out -- or in -- backing a path to citizenship: "My focus first has to be to make sure the borders are secure..." he said. "But there are 10.5 million here illegally and I think we do need to evaluate what's going to happen to those people."
For the record, LeMieux says the pair did not talk about the one issue everyone else is talking about: Florida's U.S. Senate race.
LeMieux says he did, however, get in a word about oil drilling. He told Obama he supports drilling 125 miles off Florida's coast -- but not if Florida doesn't get a share of the revenue..
"I told him I couldn't support any plan without it," LeMieux said. He noted that Obama said he wasn't so sure he was supportive of giving states royalties.
Byron Dorgan, the chair of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chair of the Energy Committee; and Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce Committee, earlier this week said they're opposed to any efforts to redirect revenue from energy development in federal waters on the Outer Continental Shelf from the federal Treasury "to a small group of coastal states.
In a letter to their colleagues, the senators wrote, "The fiscal consequences of such a loss would be devastating, particularly given the enormous demands on the federal Treasury and our need to reduce the deficit."