President Barack Obama on Thursday gave another push to Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform — and placed the blame squarely on Republicans for its failure to advance — during a speech on the issue at American University.
“I’m ready to move forward. The majority of Democrats are ready to move forward. And I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward,” Obama told the crowd of evangelical, business and labor leaders. Congressional attendees included Reps. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
“But the fact is, without bipartisan support, as we had just a few years ago, we cannot solve this problem. Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality,” he said.
The president vowed not to “kick the can down the road” on the issue, despite the “frequent pettiness of our politics” and “the pervasive sentiment in Washington that tackling such a thorny and emotional issue is inherently bad politics.”
Obama’s speech caps off a week in which he has been ramping up his efforts to spur action on immigration: He met with grass-roots groups on Monday and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Tuesday.
But given that lawmakers are unlikely to touch such an explosive issue with the midterm elections around the corner, the president’s latest push may be more about directing anger from the Hispanic community toward Republicans at the polls.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs wouldn’t say whether politics were driving Obama’s speech, but he emphasized that it is Republicans’ fault that the issue hasn’t moved.
“That’s just the legislative reality that we live with,” Gibbs told reporters Thursday.