President Barack Obama on Tuesday accused House Speaker John Boehner of delaying movement on the comprehensive immigration reform bill.
"The only thing that's holding it back right now is John Boehner calling it to the floor because we've got a majority of members of Congress — Democrats and some Republicans — in the House of Representatives, who would vote for it right now if it hits," Obama said in an interview with Telemundo.
The interview with the Spanish-language network was first reported by The Hill.
"So this is really a question that should be directed to Mr. John Boehner," Obama said, referring to the Ohio Republican. "What's stopping him from going ahead and calling that bill?"
In June, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill on a 68-32 vote that was backed by 14 Republicans. It includes provisions for a pathway to citizenship and increased border security.
The vote, which came on legislation introduced by the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators in April, sent the bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.
But the GOP-controlled House said it will not vote on such a huge Senate bill, opting instead to address immigration reform through individual pieces of legislation.
And Boehner, who vowed that the lower chamber would not take an "Obamacare-like" approach to immigration reform, has pledged to not bring any such legislation to the floor for a vote unless it has the support of most of his party's members.
Republicans have consistently attacked the Senate bill, saying it amounts to little more than amnesty for 11 million illegal immigrants; that it does little to strengthen the nation's borders; and that the Democratic leadership was rushing complex legislation into law.
Asked in his Telemundo interview whether immigration reform was essentially dead, Obama said "it shouldn't be" — as he pointed to Boehner for the delay.
The president also told the network that immigration reform supporters should not expect him to use an executive order to address the issue if Congress could not agree on reform legislation.
Last year, the Obama administration said it would stop deporting some illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they did not break laws and enrolled in college or in the military.
But doing the same thing for 11 million illegals would be "essentially … ignoring the law," Obama said, and the move would be "very difficult to defend legally."
"So that's not an option," the president added, according to The Hill. "And I do get a little worried that, you know, advocates of immigration reform start losing heart and immediately thinking: 'Well, yeah, somehow there's an out here; if Congress doesn't act, we'll just have the president sign something and that'll take care of it, and we won't have to worry about it.'"
Instead, Obama urged House legislators to back the Senate bill.
Brendan Buck, a Boehner spokesman, told The Hill that in order for immigration reform to work, "it is essential that we have the confidence of the American people that it's done the right way.
"That means a deliberate, step-by-step approach, not another massive Obamacare-style bill that people don't understand," he said.
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