Cantor: ObamaCare mess is reason to move slowly on immigration

Greg Nash

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Friday that the disastrous ObamaCare rollout is an example of why the House needs to move slowly on immigration, instead of rushing ahead with the Senate-passed bill.

"I would posit to the gentleman that a bill like ObamaCare or a bill like the Senate immigration bill produces the kinds of impact and effect that we're seeing this week and last week and the prior," Cantor said in his weekly colloquy to House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

"We don't want to commit that same mistake. We want to be smarter about it."

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Republicans spent the week preparing to vote on a bill aimed at letting people keep their old health insurance plans, millions of which will be canceled under ObamaCare. Earlier in the week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the House would not take up the Senate-passed immigration bill, which Cantor said is similar to ObamaCare in the way it was passed in the Senate.

"None of these partisan bills have ended up working," he added, citing ObamaCare as an example. "That's why we have the train wreck that is upon us. It was a strictly partisan bill that came out of the Congress ... and look what happened."

Hoyer pointed out that the Senate immigration bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support — 14 Republican senators supported it back in June. Hoyer accused Cantor of dodging the issue of immigration.

"We understand you'd like to talk about healthcare without focusing on anything else. I get that," he said.

But Cantor said ObamaCare is similar to the immigration bill because the Senate worked too quickly on a complex topic.

"In the same way, the Senate bill, the immigration bill, was passed with not a lot of focus on the detail," he said. "We intend to try to focus on the details of immigration reform, try and come together, see if we can actually have some positive reception on the gentleman's side of the aisle."

Hoyer then pressed Cantor on why Republicans haven't called up any of their more narrow immigration bills, like ones dealing with STEM visas or agricultural workers or verifying legal residence before hiring. Cantor agreed that the House would be able to pass these bills, but declined to say when they would come up.

Instead, he said Republicans are waiting for a sign that they could pass the House and be considered seriously by Senate Democrats.

"We need some indication from the White house and from the majority in the Senate that they'll actually work with us," he said. "Because given the track record this administration has amassed since 2009, there's not a lot of indication they're willing to work together."

Hoyer rejected that, and said it is Republicans who are refusing to work with Democrats. He also challenged the GOP's longstanding assertion that the House should be able to work its will, and said the GOP is not providing that chance with the Senate immigration bill.

"If he really wants the House to work its will, and he believes [the Senate bill] is a bad bill, bring it to the floor, and see if the House thinks its a bad bill," Hoyer said.

More broadly, Cantor said the House is looking to pass conference reports on the water resources bill, the farm bill, and the National Defense Authorization Act by the end of the year.

He also said he hopes for a budget conference deal as soon as possible, but did not say specifically whether conferees would be able to reach a budget deal by next week, something Hoyer is hoping for.

"I don't know ... whether they're going meet the deadline next week or not, that the gentleman says would be comfortable," Cantor said.

He added that central to the budget talks is whether the two parties can agree to entitlement reforms that would allow them to agree on easing back on the sequester, which members of both parties feel have cut discretionary programs too deeply.