By Justin Sink
President Obama said Tuesday that he and top business leaders were looking to ease the political lift on immigration reform for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
"The politics are challenging for the Speaker and others, and we want to make it as easy for him as possible," Obama said. "This is not an issue where we’re looking for a political win."
Obama noted there had been "some resistance from House Republicans" to immigration legislation, but said he wanted to "continue to amplify this issue in the coming weeks."
"There’s no reason why we can’t get this done before the end of the year," Obama said.
"And I continue to be hopeful that with the leadership of many who are around this table who represent hundreds of thousands of employees and billions of dollars of assets, who are important in their communities all across the country, them joining up with law enforcement, clergy, citizens, to make the case that ultimately folks up on Capitol Hill will do the right thing."
Attendees at the meeting included McDonald's CEO Don Thompson, Blackstone co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, State Farm CEO Edward Rust, Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson, Deloitte CEO Joe Echevarria, Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown and Evercore Partners founder Roger Altman.
White House advisers Gene Sperling, Valerie Jarrett, Cecilia Muñoz and Miguel Rodriguez also sat in on the meeting.
The White House has been looking to build pressure on House Republicans to pursue immigration reform since the end of the government shutdown last month. The administration hopes that by recruiting corporate supporters — many of whom have traditionally aligned with the GOP — it can spur them into action.
Boehner has said that any bill must earn the support of a majority of Republicans and that he favors a piecemeal, rather than comprehensive, approach.
“I still think immigration reform is an important subject that needs to be addressed, and I’m hopeful,” he told reporters last month.
Many Republicans are adamant that the first priority of immigration reform should be securing the border, and there is opposition in the House to providing a pathway to citizenship to the millions of immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally.
Obama has said that the House can pass the legislation in whatever way necessary to ensure that basic principles — including a pathway to citizenship and new border security measures — become law.
But he's also struggled to win over key Republicans in the House. A meeting with GOP lawmakers was scuttled last week when at least one congressman — Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) — declined the invitation.
"I was invited to the White House yesterday, and I refused to meet with the president because I saw it as a political trap," the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee told radio host Laura Ingraham.
"I am not pushing for immigration reform. I've been against amnesty my entire career," he continued. "I'm simply interested in getting the security piece done."
But on Tuesday, Obama said immigration reform had "strong bipartisan support," noting that former President George W. Bush supported the undertaking.
"We have a fascinating cross-section of people — some unlikely bedfellows, some very liberal folks, some very conservative folks — who all believe that now is the time to get this done," Obama said.
—This story was first posted at 10:52 a.m. and has been updated.