House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) requested that President Barack Obama avoid making a “very public push” on immigration during the midterm primaries, according to White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Speaking to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Washington Bureau Chief, Lynn Sweet, Jarrett claimed that the Speaker asked Obama to wait until after the primaries to publicly move with the immigration issue.
As Sweet notes, the immigration issue during the primaries could have served to make fending off conservative challenges — a la the defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) at the hands of David Brat, who made immigration an issue in his campaign — more difficult.
“Initially (Boehner) encouraged the president to hold off on a very public push until after the primary season of the midterms, and the president did that,” Sweet quoted Jarrett.
“And after the primary season, the president said, he called again on the House to pass legislation, and the Speaker didn’t call it up, and the president said he wanted it done by the end of the summer, and the Speaker did not call it up, and then the president decided to wait until the end of the year, and after the election the Speaker made it clear he would not be calling it up,” Jarrett continued.
Jarrett reiterated her contention when asked for more detail about Boehner’s request to avoid a “public push”.
“He said ‘Look, let’s not make this a part of the mid-term primary campaign, let’s just try to, ‘Give me a little time and space to get this done,’ I think was the broader message the Speaker gave to the president. And so the president did hold off,” Jarrett said.
To be sure Jarrett — one of Obama’s closest advisors — is no unbiased narrator in this story.
Obama recently announced his long anticipated, controversial executive amnesty and has used the Speaker and House Republicans as the proverbial villains who forced him to act unilaterally on immigration, given their failure to pass the bill he wanted. Many have speculated that Obama’s timing has also been intended to spur further division in GOP.
Jarrett’s claim would, however, fit the narrative of the more conservative wing of the party which sees Boehner through a skeptical lens, especially on the issue of immigration.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, said House passage of the Senate Gang of Eight bill wasn’t on the table.
“The Speaker told the President that his unilateral actions to alter his healthcare law undermined the American people’s faith that he would implement any law as written. He also made it clear that any action on immigration would be done in a step-by-step, common-sense manner – nothing like the Senate ‘Gang’s’ legislation,” Steel said.