Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said he still believes an overhaul of immigration laws can happen this year, despite reservations expressed Thursday by Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.
"I read what Boehner said, he has said it before," said Schumer, who was one of a bipartisan group of eight senators who led the effort to pass an immigration bill through the Senate in June.
"There are so many things going on," Schumer continued. "For all we know, he had to send a message on immigration to help pass the debt ceiling. He has not said 'I'm not doing it,' he has not said, 'It's over,' he has said 'It will be very difficult.' He's right. I agree with him." Boehner also indicated that Republicans are concerned that President Barack Obama has not enforced the nation's immigration laws uniformly and that he may pick and choose aspects to enforce if an overhaul is passed.
"We know that they mistrust the president," Schumer said. "That's their latest argument, that the parts they don’t like will be enacted and the parts they like will not be enacted."
But Schumer said that could be an argument against any piece of legislation "under any president."
One Democratic aide said the Republican line of argument is specious because immigration rewrite advocates have argued that Obama has enforced the law too strenuously, resulting in a significant number of deportations.
"I believe that there is a good portion of the Republican leadership that wants to do a bill," Schumer said. "I believe they know it's difficult. I believe they know there is not a straight line process. ... So I am not really discouraged by what Speaker Boehner said and I am sure there will be ups and downs between now and when we get a bill done."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking at a news conference, blamed tea party conservatives for forcing Boehner's hand.
"I've had a lot of dealings with the speaker," Reid said. "I like him as a person. But that caucus he has is really unbelievable. ... Last week at their retreat, they outlined a principle for immigration. Well I guess today they decided they have no principles on ... immigration."
Reid also noted that "the Republican leader in the Senate threw cold water on this" as well .
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., part of the immigration "gang of eight", said he doesn't have much sympathy for Boehner, who Durbin believes wants to pass a bill with a majority of Republicans voting for it.
"I just don't think it's any refuge for Speaker Boehner to say 'I just can't convince a majority of my caucus," said Durbin, speaking at the news conference. "He will never convince a majority of his caucus, but if he'll joined with the other members of the House of Representatives there will be a majority to pass comprehensive immigration reform."