WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) firmly rejected the idea on Thursday that his conference is obstructing immigration reform and will fail to act, even as the clock ticks down for passing any legislation this year.
"Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not," Boehner said at a press conference.
Many observers have begun to question whether reform is still a possibility given the legislative calendar, which leaves little time for votes this year. That would push activity to the 2014 election year, when members shy away from controversial votes. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said recently that there would not be votes this year, and Boehner has rejected a vote on the comprehensive reform bill that passed the Senate in June. He said last week that he has "no intention" of allowing negotiations on that bill, and that the House was still working out its own path forward.
There is no indication that Boehner will allow a vote on a comprehensive bill introduced by Democrats and co-sponsored by three GOP members that is based on the Senate legislation. At her own press conference earlier Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called on Boehner to bring that bill for a vote.
Immigration advocates are ramping up the pressure on House Republicans, as demonstrated by the early Thursday delivery of turkeys, merlot and pleas for immigration reform to Boehner's office and other GOP members. A group of activists are currently fasting on the National Mall -- some of them for more than a week -- in a call for quick action. They requested a meeting from Boehner, but he has not yet given them one.
Boehner said, as he has before, that behind-the-scenes and committee talks on immigration reform are ongoing. He did not answer questions on when they plan to introduce or vote on legislation.
He said he appreciated President Barack Obama's statements Wednesday that he was open if the GOP wanted to "chop that thing up into five pieces," as long as all issues of immigration reform were addressed.
"I was encouraged that the president said that he wouldn't stand in the way of a step-by-step immigration reform," Boehner said. "As you know, that's the approach the House Republicans have taken. The American people are skeptical of big comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be. The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time."