Eric Cantor goes public on immigration feud with Obama

Updated at 5:00 p.m.

Bickering between the White House and the House GOP over immigration spilled into the public sphere yesterday when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., accused President Obama of not knowing how to work with Congress.

"After five years, President Obama still has not learned how to effectively work with Congress to get things done. You do not attack the very people you hope to engage in a serious dialogue," Cantor said.

He was referring to a statement by the White House marking the one-year anniversary of the introduction of the Senate's comprehensive immigration bill, which passed late last June but has languished in the House.

"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. 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 president said in a statement issued by the White House.

"I urge House Republicans to listen to the will of the American people and bring immigration reform to the House floor for a vote," he added.

House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly ruled out any legislation that mirrors the Senate bill. The House Republican conference released their own set of immigration principles earlier this year, they quickly backed away from action after Boehner said lawmakers could not trust the president to enforce the law. Several single-issue bills have been authored by a handful of lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee, but none have received a vote on the floor.

Cantor's note came after the president called him to discuss immigration, he said. Several news outlets have reported that a White House official said the president initially phoned the majority leader, who is Jewish, to wish him a happy Passover holiday before immigration came up.

"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 who are struggling to make ends meet in this economy," Cantor said.

On Thursday, Mr. Obama said the conversation had actually been "very pleasant."

"You know, you're always kind of surprised by the mismatch between press releases and the conversation," he told reporters at a press conference. "I wished him happy Passover, and what I said to him privately is something that I would share with him -- that I've said publicly, which is, there is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform."

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for