SALT LAKE CITY — A Republican delegate who introduced Benedict Arnold into the contentious debate over Utah's guest worker program bill apologized Friday.

Brandon Beckham called his use of "traitors" to describe those who drafted HB116 a poor choice of words. Beckham made the comment, which drew cheers and applause, at a news conference Wednesday where he and others reiterated their effort to repeal the law.

"I am very passionate about the principles behind the immigration issue as it affects every aspect of our community. However, I certainly erred in my wording. While I disagree with HB116 supporters on the premise of the law, I never meant to attack anyone's character, and I'm not above an apology," he said.

Beckham, of Orem, said he didn't mean the remark as a slight to legislators who voted for or sponsored the legislation. He said he called key sponsors of the bill to apologize.

"I do hope those offended will forgive me for my ill choice of words as we move forward on this complex issue," he said.

Lawmakers are already talking about what to do about the issues raised over HB116, even though immigration was not on last Wednesday's special session agenda.

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, said GOP senators agreed to survey their constituents to see what they want done next session.

"The problem is the resolution called for 'repeal and replace.' But there is not a replacement," Reid said. "We're left wondering what this is about, what it is that we're replacing it with."

Senate President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville, said after a closed-door caucus during the special session, most Republican senators agree the bill needs to be replaced.

"But the problem is the details," Waddoups said. "We're all prepared to repeal and replace, but you don't repeal and replace until you figure out what it's going to be replaced with."

The Senate president said he was confident the 2012 Legislature will improve the original bill, passed as part of a package of illegal immigration legislation that included a tough enforcement measure.

"We're still going to have a 'nice' component," Waddoups said. "We're still going to have an understanding that this is a country where people have an opportunity to improve themselves. They can have a job. They can have a roof over their heads. We're going to find a way to let people who really want to work and participate and contribute, do that."

House Republicans, though, aren't ready to repeal HB116, said House Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo.

"I haven't heard the same kind of 'repeal and replace' from colleagues in the House," Lockhart said. "Are there things in HB116 that we can strengthen and clarify? Most likely yes, and we'll probably look at doing that."

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