Obama rallies faith leaders on immigration

President Obama on Wednesday rallied faith leaders to pressure Republicans to pursue comprehensive immigration reform during a morning meeting at the White House.

ADVERTISEMENT
The meeting comes on the heels of a similar gathering last week with business executives, as the White House looks to regain momentum on a reform effort that has largely stalled in the House.

In addition to the president, Vice President Biden, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz and director of faith-based partnerships Melissa Rogers attended the meeting.

"The President and the leaders discussed their shared commitment to raise the moral imperative for immigration reform and said they will continue keeping the pressure on Congress so they can swiftly pass commonsense reform," the White House said in a statement.

According to the White House, Obama told the leaders there was "no reason for House Republicans to continue to delay action on this issue that has garnered bipartisan support."

But on Capitol Hill earlier Wednesday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House committees needed to "develop the principles" of immigration reform before they "figure out how we’re going to move ahead.”

“But let’s understand something — I want to deal with this issue,” Boehner said. “But I want to deal with it in a common sense, step-by-step way.”

Boehner stressed that he would not be willing to pass legislation that allowed for a conference with the Senate, from which a comprehensive bill might emerge.

“We’ve made it clear that we’re going to move on a common-sense, step-by-step approach in terms of how we deal with immigration,” Boehner said.

“The idea that we’re going to take up a 1,300-page bill that no one had ever read, which is what the Senate did, is not going to happen in the House. And frankly, I’ll make clear we have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill.”

Boehner's comments indicate that efforts by the White House to build pressure on immigration may be failing. Last week, President Obama hosted Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the White House for a conversation partially devoted to charting out a path forward.

At his meeting with business executives last week, the president said he wanted to make immigration "easy" for House Republicans.

"The politics are challenging for the Speaker and others, and we want to make it as easy for him as possible," Obama said. "This is not an issue where we’re looking for a political win."

Still, the issue is politically charged, and likely one that will play a role in the upcoming midterm elections. A Basswood Research poll released Tuesday of likely voters in 20 Republican-represented swing districts found that a majority of likely voters supported comprehensive immigration reform.

Last week, labor groups — including the SEIU and AFL-CIO — announced ad campaigns in Republican districts to ramp up pressure on house members.