Cabinet No-Shows Rile Senators; White House Cancels Appearances at Hearing on Immigration Bills

Article excerpt

Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Bush administration came under fire for withdrawing from a hearing yesterday during which two Cabinet secretaries had been scheduled to testify on immigration and guest-worker proposals.

President Bush has said he supports a guest-worker program and has demanded that Congress send him a bill, but canceled appearances by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was examining the two competing guest-worker bills.

The hearing went on without them, but not without three pointed mentions of the administration's absence by committee Chairman Arlen Specter.

"We decided to go ahead with the hearing. We're going to do our work. And when the administration wants to chime in, we'll be ready to listen," the Pennsylvania Republican said. He said the administration canceled late Friday.

Spokesmen for Mr. Chertoff did not return calls, and a spokeswoman for the Labor Department would not say why Mrs. Chao canceled, but indicated that the administration will weigh in at some point.

"Administration officials are going to be testifying at a later date," the spokeswoman said.

Six weeks ago, House and Senate Republicans said they expected Mr. Bush to clarify his immigration stance and embrace stronger enforcement. But no such clarification has been forthcoming. Some Republican aides said the administration's cancellation shows that Mr. Bush has not made a decision about how to proceed on the issue.

A liberal advocacy group has released a report that says it would cost at least $40 billion a year for the next five years to run a program to deport illegal aliens. …