An overhaul to the broken US immigration system remains stalled because "the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism", the head of the committee to elect Democratic lawmakers to the House of Representatives said.
Representative Steve Israel's comments on Sunday are in line with those from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi last Thursday, in which she blamed racial issues for Republicans' failure to act on comprehensive immigration legislation. Asked about Pelosi's comments, New York's Israel said he agreed with her assessment.
"To a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism. And that's unfortunate," said Israel, who heads the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Frustration is mounting among the House's Democratic minority and immigration activists about Republicans' refusal to act on a far-reaching immigration bill passed by the Senate last year with bipartisan support. The Senate bill would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and tighten border security.
Republicans remain wary of a contentious debate on the divisive issue, which could anger their core voters and undercut potential electoral gains in the November elections when control of Congress will be at stake.
"I think race has something to do with the fact that they're not bringing up an immigration bill," Pelosi told reporters.
Pelosi was responding to a question about whether race factors into how Republicans deal with members of the Obama administration.
Oregon Representative Greg Walden, who heads the Republican committee to elect House members, said blaming racism was "both wrong and unfortunate." He said his Republican colleagues had been critical of President Barack Obama and his party on policy grounds, not racial ones.
The issue of immigration reform was also a point of contention among potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders.
Republican Senator Rand Paul said potential White House rival Jeb Bush was inarticulate when he described immigrants who come to the United States illegally as committing an "act of love".