President Obama on Thursday launched a new effort to pass immigration reform by the end of the year, urging House Republicans to "take a closer look at the polls" and pass the languishing Senate measure.
Speaking to a crowd at the White House, Obama offered GOP lawmakers a little unsolicited advice.
"Good policy is good politics in this instance," Obama said. Those who are resistant should "take a closer look at the polls."
The White House is hoping that Obama's recent political victory in the government shutdown and the poor approval ratings for Republicans will inspire House leaders to finally take up the reform bill passed by the Senate.
But while Obama argues Republicans have strategic reasons now to work on immigration, GOP lawmakers are showing little inclination to collaborate with the White House and Senate Democrats who took such a hard line in the budget standoff.
But some House Republicans have been working in small groups for several months to craft a series of narrow bills that would reform parts of the immigration system, in part by streamlining ways that immigrants who entered illegally could get right with law.
“I'm hopeful," House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday when asked if the House can take up immigration before the end of the year. "I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Still, Boehner has said he would not bring the Senate immigration bill that passed in June up for a vote in the House.
Aides to Obama say he hopes to change Boehner's mind.
But Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said after Obama spoke that the House will not consider any "massive, Obamacare-style legislation that no one understands. Instead, the House is committed to a common-sense, step-by-step approach that gives Americans confidence that reform is done the right way. We hope that the president will work with us – not against us – as we pursue this deliberate approach.”
Speaking to religious, labor and business leaders at the White House, Obama argued that the time is right to resurrect the comprehensive reform measure.
"This is the moment when we should finally be able to get the job done," he said as 150 White House staffers and reform activists cheered.
Even with the shutdown over, Obama said, Democrats and Republicans still have disagreements about how to proceed on a number off issues.
But on immigration, he argued, their interests align.
"It's good for our economy," he said. "It's good for our people ... This isn't just the right thing to do, it's the smart thing to do."