By Mike Lillis - 03/26/14 12:00 PM EDT
House Democrats on Wednesday launched their effort to force Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to stage a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.
Noting that the Senate already passed a similar bill with broad bipartisan support, the Democrats accused "out of touch" House Republicans of blocking the popular legislation for political ends.
"One person should not stand in the way of the will of the American people," said Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.). "We have the votes, we just need a vote."
President Obama hailed the move and framed the need for immigration reform in both economic and moral terms.
"Immigration reform is the right thing to do for our economy, our security, and our future," Obama said in a statement. "The only thing standing in the way is the unwillingness of Republicans in Congress to catch up with the rest of the country."
The discharge petition is the third the House Democrats have unveiled this year. The others would force votes on proposals raising the minimum wage and extending emergency unemployment benefits, both opposed by most Republicans.
Democratic leaders acknowledge that their petitions won't attract enough GOP support to force floor votes on those issues.
"We'll never get to 218 on the discharge petition,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said earlier in the month in an interview with Sirius XM Radio, referring to push for immigration reform.
But politically, the petitions could be a winner for the Democrats as a means to highlight the stark divisions between the parties when it comes to bread-and-butter economic issues like wages and safety-net programs that are popular with voters, according to public opinion polls.
Earlier in the year, Boehner and other House GOP leaders began to move on the immigration issue, releasing a set of "principles" in January designed to ease conservative concerns and guide the debate through the House.
Conservatives in the GOP conference revolted, particularly against legalization provisions they said would offer "amnesty" to those living in the country illegally. In response, Boehner shelved the issue, saying Republicans don't trust Obama's implementation of the law enough to pursue the reforms aggressively.
"The president's gonna have to demonstrate to the American people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it is written," Boehner said last month.
It remains to be seen whether the House will vote on an immigration bill this year.