WASHINGTON — Projecting urgency, President Obama said Friday he wants the Senate to pass a comprehensive immigration bill in the next three months, though he is willing to be patient if that timeline slips slightly.
Obama spoke during a meeting with faith leaders, an increasingly powerful part of the coalition seeking to overhaul the nation’s patchwork immigration laws. The private meeting occurred as the White House tries to show it is focused on more than just fiscal issues following Washington’s inability to avert billions in budget cuts and a looming deadline for keeping the government running.
According to people who attended the meeting, the president was enthusiastic about the work underway in the Senate, where a group of eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, are crafting legislation. The White House has drafted its own immigration bill, but Obama emphasized to the faith leaders that he would send it to Capitol Hill only if the Senate effort breaks down.
‘‘The president understood our sense of urgency,’’ said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. ‘‘He understands there’s a very narrow window.’’
The ‘‘Gang of Eight’’ senators said this week they are not sure they can finish crafting a bill by their self-imposed March deadline but were optimistic about reaching a deal soon.
Immigration shot to the forefront of Washington’s agenda — both for Obama and some Republicans — following the November election. Hispanic voters made up 10 percent of the electorate and Obama carried more than two-thirds of their voters, raising concerns among Republicans about their ability to appeal to the increasingly powerful voting bloc.
Overhauling immigration laws is also a top priority for the fast-growing number of Asians in the United States, who also voted overwhelmingly for Obama but make up a far smaller percentage of the electorate — 3 percent, according to exit polls from the November election.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
Brennan takes over at CIA as Obama’s security team final
WASHINGTON — John Brennan took over Friday as director of the CIA, the finishing touch on President Obama’s national security team for his second term.
The White House said Vice President Joe Biden swore Brennan in during a private ceremony in the Roosevelt Room, the morning after he won Senate confirmation amid a contentious debate. Republicans had blocked his nomination but lifted their delay after the administration bowed to their requests for clarification about the president’s power in using drones.
Last week Chuck Hagel won Senate confirmation to be defense secretary, joining Secretary of State John Kerry in Obama’s revamped second-term lineup.
With Obama in attendance but media excluded, Brennan took the oath from Biden in the Roosevelt Room. Rather than swearing on a Bible, Brennan placed his hand on an original copy of the Constitution from 1787 that had George Washington’s handwriting and annotations on it. He told Obama he requested the document from the archives because he wanted to reaffirm his commitment to the rule of law, an administration official said.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS
Levin’s departure will leave wide-open Mich. Senate race
LANSING, Mich. — Senator Carl Levin’s decision not to seek another term gives Michigan Republicans the chance to prove they can win a Senate election, while Democrats are left scrambling to keep a seat that has not been closely contested since the Detroit Tigers last won the World Series in 1984.
Levin’s announcement is expected to spark a frenzy of interest from candidates and parties. The outcome of the 2014 race will play a role in Michigan’s clout in Congress, the battle for control of the 100-member Senate, and possibly even Governor Rick Snyder’s reelection prospects.
‘‘This offers the opportunity for a huge field,’’ said Lansing-based political analyst Bill Ballenger.
Much of the early focus is on the state’s congressional delegation, where at least five members are considered possible candidates to move to the upper chamber. GOP Representatives Justin Amash, Dave Camp, and Mike Rogers are being mentioned as well as Democrats Gary Peters and Dan Kildee.
Peters, who represents the bellwether county north of Detroit, said Friday he is ‘‘very interested’’ in running for Senate.
‘‘It is absolutely critical that Democrats hold this seat,’’ he said, calling himself a battle-tested campaigner who has won three difficult races. ‘‘People don’t win statewide without winning Oakland County, and that’s my political base.’’
The three-term congressman said he would make a decision within weeks after talking with his family.
Some other Democrats interested in running are national committeewoman Debbie Dingell, the wife of longtime Representative John Dingell, and University of Michigan regent Mark Bernstein, part of a well-known family of plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Former governor Jennifer Granholm also is being mentioned. She could not be reached Friday.
One Republican to express interest was former two-term secretary of state Terri Lynn Land, who previously considered running against Senator Debbie Stabenow.
— ASSOCIATED PRESS