Passing comprehensive immigration reform is more important than Democrats' success at the polls in November, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday.
A number of Republicans and other conservative voices have accused Pelosi and the Democrats of using the immigration reform issue as a political crutch, suggesting the Democrats would rather keep the issue alive for campaign purposes than actually pass a bill.
But Pelosi on Thursday rejected that notion outright, and she didn't mince words.
The comments arrive as Democrats in Congress and the White House are trying to energize Hispanic voters ahead of this year's midterm elections. Latinos strongly favored Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and the Democrats are hoping the current debate over immigration reform will spur them to the polls again in November.
On Wednesday, Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders introduced a discharge petition aimed at forcing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring an immigration bill to the floor this year.
"Some say, 'You don't have the votes,' " Pelosi said. "Well, let's find out."
Headlining the Hispanic Chamber event, Vice President Biden said passing immigration reform would be "the single most important thing we can do for our economy and for America's future."
"It's a game changer financially for the country," Biden said.
Although the Senate passed such a measure last year, Boehner and other GOP leaders have refused to act on it amid intense disagreements over the issue within their conservative conference. In January, Boehner introduced a list of reform "principles" designed to guide the debate, but he shelved them less than a week later in response to the outcry from his own troops.
The GOP's resistance is creating an urgency in Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, who fear losing all the momentum of the Senate's bipartisan action if the House doesn't move on the issue this year.
"If we don't get it done soon, if we don't get a vote in the House of Representatives, we have to start from scratch," Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, told the Hispanic Chamber. "I'm not saying vote 'yes.' I'm simply saying … give us a vote."