By Russell Berman - 04/16/14 05:17 PM EDT
President Obama called House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to prod Republicans to bring up immigration reform, but the conversation apparently did not go well.
Cantor issued a blistering statement afterward, criticizing Obama for calling him just after delivering what he called “a partisan statement” that indicated “no desire to work together” on immigration, a top priority for Obama that House Republicans have largely ignored. [READ THE STATEMENT HERE.]
A White House official said Obama had called Cantor to wish him a happy "Passover, and immigration reform then came up.
The official said the White House was suprised by the tone of Cantor's statement, which didn't reflect the call.
Earlier on Wednesday, Obama issued his own statement marking the first anniversary of the introduction of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration overhaul, which passed on a bipartisan vote last June.
He called out House Republicans for blocking the bill and not taking action on their own proposals for immigration reform.
“Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform,” Obama said. “Instead of advancing commonsense reform and working to fix our immigration system, House Republicans have voted in favor of extreme measures like a punitive amendment to strip protections from ‘Dreamers.’ ”
Obama may have called Cantor instead of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) because Boehner has been out of the country on a congressional delegation visit to the Middle East.
Cantor’s statement is in contrast to what Boehner said after a recent meeting at the White House, where he characterized immigration reform as an area where he and the president were in agreement.
While Boehner has said the House needs to tackle the politically contentious issue, he has blamed Obama for poisoning relations with Congress by taking unilateral actions to delay enforcement of his healthcare law. The actions, Boehner has said, cause his members to distrust whether Obama would enforce any immigration bill Congress passed.
Cantor said he told Obama “there are other issues where we can find common ground, build trust and get America working again.” He did not mention any specifically in his statement.
“I hope the president can stop his partisan messaging, and begin to seriously work with Congress to address the issues facing working middle class Americans that are struggling to make ends meet in this economy,” Cantor said.
This story was updated at 6:09 p.m.
Justin Sink contributed to this story.