TODAY | February 18, 2013
>> nbc's white house correspondent kristen welker is in port st. lucie, traveling with the president. good morning.
>> reporter: good morning, natalie. president obama heads home later today after a weekend of golf, including a game with tiger woods on sunday. the debate over immigration reform back in washington is escalating. new white house chief of staff dennis mcdonough on "meet the press" after a leaked copy of the president's immigration proposal, creating a new visa, allowing illegal immigrants to become legal residents within eight years. mcdonough says the president has not proposed a bill yet and is hoping congress will act first.
>> we'll be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks going on on the hill which, by the way, we're aggressively supporting. if those do not work out, we'll have an option that we'll be ready to put out there.
>> reporter: republicans slammed the report, including a key player in the bipartisan talks, marco rubio saying if actually proposed the president's bill would be dead on arrival . senator john mccain accused the white house of playing politics.
>> leaks don't happen in washington by accident.
>> reporter: democrats engaged in damage control.
>> we've talked to senator rubio. he is fully on board with our process. i am very hopeful that in march we will have a bipartisan bill.
>> reporter: an administration official says that leak was not planned. now that bipartisan group of senators continues to work on immigration reform but passage is not certain with lawmakers still sharply divided on key issues. natalie?
>> kristen welker, port st. lucie, thank you so much.