Facing Heat On Immigration, Cantor Takes Aggressive Posture With Obama
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sought to distance himself from entreaties by President Obama to pass amnesty through the House, blasting Obama in a statement to the press about a phone call the two shared this afternoon on immigration.
“I told the President the same thing I told him the last time we spoke,” Cantor said in a statement. “House Republicans do not support Senate Democrats' immigration bill and amnesty efforts, and it will not be considered in the House.
Cantor's aggressive posture with Obama stands in contrast to his support for a significant immigration push in the House led by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA).
A White House aide also said the statement was “all staff bluster,” suggesting Cantor may be working to avoid scrutiny from conservatives as he faces a primary challenger in Virginia and plans for a potential leadership shakeup at the beginning of the next Congress.
Obama’s phone call to Cantor came after the president released a statement earlier Wednesday calling for full-blown amnesty from House Republicans on the anniversary of the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill being introduced last April.
“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,” he 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.’ The majority of Americans are ahead of House Republicans on this crucial issue and there is broad support for reform, including among Democrats and Republicans, labor and business, and faith and law enforcement leaders,” Obama added.
In his statement ripping Obama, Cantor criticized the harsh tone of Obama's statement.
Cantor is working to draft his own variation on the DREAM Act. Previous versions of “DREAM Act” bills have granted amnesty to individuals who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children.
He has also backed a quiet plot to insert a similar proposal into the text of the National Defense Authorization Act, even issuing a “pledge” to help Denham enact the proposal, according to the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA).
Cantor publicly backed the push for the first time this week in comments to Breitbart News.
Cantor spokesman Rory Cooper did not respond to questions about whether Cantor discussed those topics on his call with Obama.
Despite Cantor's statement, the White House had a different read on the call. Obama “called to wish him [Cantor] Happy Passover and the readout is all staff bluster, not tense at all,” a White House official told the Huffington Post's Sam Stein.
This back-and-forth comes as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has increased her pressure on House Republicans supportive of amnesty, pushing them to back Democratic Party measures like the House Democrats’ version of the Senate Gang of Eight bill.
In a statement Pelosi released concurrently with President Obama’s, she said that within the year since the Senate passed its amnesty, “House Republicans have done nothing but offer excuses for their failure to act.”
“Instead of allowing a vote on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration our nation wants and needs, House Republicans break promises, abandon their principles, and vote to deport bright young DREAMers from the only country they have ever known,” Pelosi said.