The Senate’s top Democrat chastised House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday for refusing to negotiate with the Senate on immigration reform.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faulted Boehner (R-Ohio) for the gridlock that’s blocking immigration reform in Congress. Reid’s comments came after Boehner told immigration activists he was working to pass a bill.
“I'm stunned,” Nevada senator told Fusion in an interview at the Capitol on Wednesday. “How could anybody in good conscience tell one group he's trying to do immigration reform, and a few minutes later, say 'I'm not going to do anything about a conference?'"
Boehner irked immigration-reform advocates earlier in the day by saying House Republicans have “no intention” of merging any of their immigration bills with a broad bipartisan proposal passed by the Senate this summer. The Senate measure would offer undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.
The Ohio Republican was also in the news for telling two young activists with family members who have faced deportation that he is “trying to find some way to get this thing done.”
“It’s, uh, you know, not easy—not gonna be an easy path forward,” the Speaker said. “But I’ve made it clear since the day after the election that it’s time to get this done.”
But Reid accused Boehner of sending mixed messages on immigration to avoid taking blame for the legislation’s demise.
"I mean, this House of Representatives might just as well not exist,” Reid said. “They don't do anything.
"And then to do this intellectual yoga drill where nobody knows what he's talking about is like some of the yoga moves I've tried and can't do," he added.
Earlier this year, the House passed an amendment that would have defunded an Obama-administration program that gives deportation relief to young people. Reid said that vote was a sign of the Republicans’ true intentions.
“The only legislation he's been willing to do over there is hard for me to comprehend,” he said. “They voted on it and passed it—to deport the Dreamers.”
Reid said he remains open to negotiating over any smaller-scope bills that pass the House. Thus far, House Republicans have drawn up several proposals that deal with border security and worker visas, but none have reached the floor for a vote.
"I don't like it. But if they pass something, we can at least go to conference,” he said.
"Not going to conference over one huge bill doesn't mean we are not going to work on immigration," a spokesperson for Boehner said. "The Speaker has been clear since the [beginning], we have a broken immigration system and we are going to do it in a step-by-step manner."