President Barack Obama said Thursday he was “surprised” by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s strong-worded attack on Democrats’ immigration reform push after the president called the Virginia Republican and discussed the issue on Wednesday.
“I actually had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Cantor yesterday. I did,” Obama told reporters in the White House briefing room, in response to a question at a brief press conference. “I was kinda surprised between the mismatch between the press releases and the conversation. I wished him a happy Passover, and what I said to him privately is something that I’ve said publicly,” the president said, referring to his support for overhauling immigration.
Obama reiterated his call for the Republican-led House to act on reform, which the Senate approved last June. He called out “House Republican leadership” for blocking progress on immigration, harming businesses who “could be growing even faster” and families who’d be better off “if we get this thing resolved.”
Cantor’s office disputed the president’s characterization.
“If anyone thinks the President called on the third day of Passover to just say hi, and immigration just happened to come up ‘hours’ (not a day) after he issued a press release attacking us, that’s crazy,” said a GOP aide familiar with the Obama-Cantor call. The call came after Obama issued a statement earlier in the day attacking Republicans for inaction on immigration reform.
Ultimately, though, Cantor appeared to want to put the spat to rest. His spokesman, Rory Cooper, tweeted the following upon the president’s remark.
End of conversation: Leader Cantor: Happy Easter. President Obama: Happy Passover. Yes, that was friendly and appreciated.
— Rory Cooper (@rorycooper) April 17, 2014