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White House: Leaked immigration plan just a backup

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House is downplaying its draft immigration proposal as merely a backup plan if lawmakers don't come up with an overhaul of their own. It won't be necessary, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are telling the Obama administration.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that President Barack Obama wants to "be prepared" in case the small bipartisan group of senators fails to devise a plan for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. In response, lawmakers assured the White House they are working on their own plan - and warned that Obama would be heading toward failure if the White House gets ahead of them.

"We will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down," McDonough said, adding he's optimistic they would not crumble.

But he was equally realistic about the fierce partisanship on Capitol Hill.

"Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed," McDonough said of the president's pitch, first reported on USA Today's website late Saturday.

Even so, the administration is moving forward on its own immigration agenda should one of Obama's top priorities get derailed.

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