President Barack Obama weighed in on the shock election defeat of Republican Eric Cantor on Wednesday, rejecting the argument that the ouster of the House of Representatives’ No. 2 will spell the death knell for immigration reform.
Cantor’s ouster by a Tea Party-backed conservative in his Virginia district on Tuesday has sent political shock waves coursing through Washington, and a leading school of thought is that the move means Obama’s long-sought attempt to rewrite immigration laws is dead.
Cantor was seen by his opponents as flirting with trying to steer the House into supporting immigration legislation, although White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Cantor had campaigned against an immigration deal.
Obama, at a fund-raising event for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told a dinner crowd that “some of you saw that there was an interesting election yesterday.”
“It’s interesting to listen to the pundits and the analysts and some of the conventional wisdom talks about how the politics of immigration reform seem impossible. I fundamentally reject that,” Obama said.
Obama, under pressure from Hispanic groups to get a deal done, said he will tell House Speaker John Boehner that he needs to reject the view as well that a reform deal is dead because “politics can’t play a part in it.”
“If you think that because of politics you want to maintain a status quo that is broken … you don’t belong in Washington,” Obama said.
Obama has been increasingly frustrated by political gridlock that has seized Washington for most of his second term. On Tuesday in Washington he complained ruefully about lawmakers’ inability to impose even modest gun control measures to address random shootings that have occurred on a routine basis.
With the Father’s Day holiday coming, Obama said all he would want is a “rational opposition.”
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