House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) met privately Thursday morning with retired Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick at the Capitol, where they discussed the prospects of immigration reform and their shared Roman Catholic faith, just an hour before a press conference where Boehner cast doubt on whether he could move immigration legislation this year.
According to a person familiar with the session, Boehner did not make any promises to McCarrick, the 83-year-old Cardinal archbishop emeritus of Washington and a veteran presence in American politics. But the huddle between the two longtime friends underscores Boehner's continued interest in immigration reform, in spite of a push by conservatives to shelve the issue.
In a brief chat following the meeting, McCarrick told the Washington Post he is keeping Boehner in his prayers as the speaker mulls whether to bring an immigration bill to the House floor, and hopes Congress acts soon to address the country's millions of undocumented workers.
At his press conference, Boehner said any immigration-reform effort will be difficult ahead of the midterm elections. “I’ve never underestimated the difficulty in moving forward this year," he said. “There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws, and it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”
McCarrick, who has been friendly with presidents and federal legislators for decades, has been a leading proponent of immigration reform, and had participated in several fasts on Capitol Hill over the past year, as well as other immigration-related protests. He has also made the struggles of migrant workers a leading theme in his recent speeches.
Other Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, have also urged Boehner to act over the past year.
“The House has a responsibility to debate and attempt to resolve public policy issues that challenge the nation," Dolan wrote in a letter last November. "Immigration is a challenge that has confounded our nation for years, with little action from our federally elected officials. It is a matter of great moral urgency that cannot wait any longer for action."