Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., celebrated Cinco de Mayo on Monday with renewed calls for House Speaker John A. Boehner and Republicans to take action on an immigration overhaul.
Hosting a group of about 100 Hispanic leaders and activists for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, Biden said it's time for Boehner to take up the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate last year.
"It's time for John — he’s a good man, John Boehner — to stand up and other Republicans to stand up. Not for us to stand up. We’ve already stood up. We’ve been right there. We stood up. It's time for him to stand up, stand up and not let the minority — I think it’s a minority — of the Republican Party in the House keep us from moving in a way that will change the circumstances for millions and millions of lives.”
Biden defended remarks he made in February that the country's undocumented immigrants are already Americans. “They may not be citizens, but they are Americans. In the definition of Teddy Roosevelt, he said Americanism is not a question of birthplace or creed or line of descent, it’s a question of principles, idealism and character. And I would argue that those 11 million folks who have been here breaking their neck, working hard, they are Americans.”
Among those in attendance at the Biden breakfast, according to pool reports, were Jill Biden, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez, Democratic Reps. Rubén Hinjosa of Texas and Xavier Becerra of California and the Small Business Administration's Maria Contreras-Sweet.
Pelosi also weighed in, issuing a statement Monday.
"Whether on Cinco de Mayo or on any other day, the time is now for comprehensive immigration reform," she said. "And the time is now for House Republicans to emulate the bravery demonstrated in the Battle of Puebla ... and give us a vote."
Action on immigration had been presumed dead in the House this year, but some Republicans, including Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart — whose brother was among the guests at Biden's event — have said there is momentum building in the GOP Conference to take action on a piece-meal, border security first solution.
The Wall Street Journal reported last month that Boehner has told backers he is “hell-bent” on passing an overhaul this year.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the fourth-ranked Republican in the House and the highest-ranked woman in the conference, has said she thinks an immigration bill could "be on the floor by August.”
Rep. Tony Cárdenas, D-Calif., appearing on MSNBC Monday, said a comprehensive approach would pass the House if Boehner would bring it to the floor.
But Virginia Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, in an interview with Spanish-language broadcasting company Univision that aired Sunday, blamed the immigration gridlock on President Barack Obama.
"The overwhelming majority of Republicans in the House are interested in immigration reform. But they have got to trust that this will lead to enforcement of the law," Goodlatte said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Co-Chairman Sharon Day and Rosario Marin, member of the RNC’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, echoed that position in their Cinco de Mayo statement.
"We’re committed to fixing our broken borders ... however, President Obama’s desire not to enforce our laws because of political convenience undermines any type of immigration reform," they wrote.