Obama disputes Cantor, calls immigration talk 'pretty friendly'

President Obama said he had a "pretty friendly conversation" with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) about immigration this week, despite Cantor's complaint afterwards that Obama was on the "attack."

"You're always kind of surprised by the mismatch between press releases and the conversation," Obama said.

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Obama said he told Cantor that there is bipartisan support for immigration reform, and that Congress should act. But the president added today that, "Right now what's holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward."

Obama did acknowledge that the issue is "hard politics" for many Republicans, as many in the GOP base oppose making it easier for illegal immigrants to stay in the county. But Obama seemed to declare the policy fight over.

"We know what the right thing to do is, it's a matter of political will," he said. "It's not any longer a matter of policy."

Cantor on Wednesday said the president displayed "no desire to work together" and that he "still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done."

Speaking at the White House Thursday, Obama said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was reviewing how executive branch actions on deportations might help fix an immigration system he said was "broken." But he said that review was still ongoing.

"I won't get into timing right now because Mr. Johnson is going to go ahead and do that review," Obama said.

Republicans say the Obama administration is already flouting the will of Congress in several areas — including immigration policy — and have warned against further efforts to change federal immigration rules. Democrats, on the other hand, have said Obama is left with no choice because House GOP leaders have failed to move ahead with any immigration legislation.

Democrats have called for fewer deportations, which Obama indicated was a possibility.

"We shouldn't be in the business, necessarily, of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding," Obama said. 

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