President Barack Obama on Thursday renewed a call to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, laying the blame for lack of action at the feet of House Republicans -- who have declined to take up a bill that cleared the Senate.
"It's up to Republicans in the House to decide whether reform becomes a reality or not," Obama said, arguing that resolving the status of 11 million people in the country without legal documents is a win for the economy, national security "and the people."
He noted his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, had backed a similar effort"
His remarks in the East Room at the White House came as House Republicans opened a series of hearings into Obama's health care law and Republicans accused him of looking to change the subject.
"There is a reason the president is giving a speech on immigration this morning, and it has nothing to do with immigration reform," the Republican National Committee said in an email. "With ObamaCare hearings on the Hill beginning today, the President knows he is in store for more bad headlines as Democrats join Republicans in calling for delays to his signature healthcare law."
Obama had promised in the thick of the government shutdown that he'd renew a pledge to see immigration reform passed this year.
"Rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems," he said.
With Vice President Joe Biden at his side, Obama veered into campaign mode at the close, revving up the crowd of immigration activists.
"I have to say, Joe, as I look out at this room, these don’t look like people who are easily deterred," Obama said, thanking activists for their persistence. "They don’t look like folks who are going to give up. You look fired up to make the next push. And whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, I want you to keep working, and I’m going to be right next to you, to make sure we get immigration reform done. It is time. Let’s go get it done."