Biden scolds Boehner on immigration

Vice President Biden on Thursday scolded Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for ruling out House negotiations on the Senate-passed immigration reform bill. 

“I am extremely disappointed that the Speaker of the House of Representatives announced yesterday he will not allow the House to play by fair play, the American way, and let the Congress actually vote their conscience to fix a broken system,” he said. 

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Speaking at a naturalization ceremony in Georgia, Biden told a group of new citizens that there are millions of people living in the country who deserve a path to becoming Americans.

“This is a step backward in the history of the country, but we’ll overcome it,” he said. “But I’m asking you to help now.” 

Boehner on Thursday ruled out merging the Senate bill with any proposal that makes it out of the House, dealing a blow to advocates who had hoped for a deal in conference.

“I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill,” Boehner said Wednesday. 

Time is running out for immigration legislation to proceed. GOP leaders have indicated there will not be House votes on immigration this year, and there is broad opposition in their conference to approving a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — something Democrats have said is non-negotiable.

Biden said it takes a certain kind of strength to pick up and move to another country, and said lawmakers who oppose immigration reform diminish that challenge. 

“It took something special in all of you to make the trip. Now there is something to genes, I think, in this regard … There is something different that you all possess — making the decision to leave everything you’ve known is not for the fainthearted.”

“Those who oppose letting 11 million people out of the shadows on a path to citizenship, they somehow think that somehow it must have been an easy decision to come to America. It takes immense endurance,” he said. “There is something different that you all possess.” 

Biden, who has attended other naturalization ceremonies, used a familiar line, opening up his speech by saying “thank you for picking us.”

He described how his Irish Catholic mother once offered up a quintessential American advice before Biden left on a trip to England to visit the queen.  

“She said, ‘Joey be respectful but do not bow or kiss her ring,’ ” he said. “My mother is a very, very devout Catholic. I have met the last three popes: ‘Joey, do not kiss his ring. Be respectful, but do not kiss his ring.’ ”