Obama, Boehner discuss immigration

President Obama met with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a rare private conference Tuesday morning in the Oval Office, according to White House and congressional officials. 

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The two leaders covered a lot of territory in what a Boehner aide described as "a constructive conversation" that lasted about an hour.

The aide listed 10 issues Obama and Boehner discussed, including trade, the healthcare law, immigration, Afghanistan and the appropriations process.

"They agreed that there is a lot work to do the rest of the year, and it is important to work together wherever we can find common ground," the Boehner aide said.

The other issues on the agenda included flood insurance, manufacturing, California drought relief, wildfire suppression and a new highway bill that will be needed this year.

Upon returning to the Capitol, Boehner told CNN that it was “a nice meeting” and “just fine.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the pair "had a good and constructive meeting of about an hour, where they discussed a range of issues."

Asked if the meeting between Boehner and Obama signaled a thawing of tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill, Carney downplayed its significance. He stressed that Obama regularly had conversations with members of Congress that were not read out to the press, and said it was a "misconception" to say the fate of legislation hinged on the personal relationship between Boehner and Obama.

Instead, the White House spokesman argued, "a segment of the House Republican conference" was responsible for gridlock.

Still, Carney described that relationship between the two men as "solid" and said Obama found the meeting to be a "useful conversation."

The White House also acknowledged that Obama and Boehner discussed trade, a favorite hobbyhorse of the Speaker. But Carney wouldn't say if the pair discussed how they might convince skeptical Democrats — including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — to support fast-track trade authority.

"The president's views on why it is good for the American economy and American workers to negotiate trade agreements that expand American exports are well known," Carney said.

The sit-down came just a week before the president is set to officially unveil his budget proposal, and ahead of a narrow window for legislative work before members of Congress head back to their districts to campaign.

The meeting, which was requested by the president, was thought to be the Speaker's first trip to the White House since December, when the House Republican caucus met with the president. It is their first private meeting in the Oval Office since December 2012, during "fiscal-cliff" negotiations.

At a meeting with governors at the White House on Monday, Obama said he was “eager to work with Congress wherever I can.”

“My hope is, is that despite this being an election year, that there will be occasions where both parties determine that it makes sense to actually get some things done in this town,” Obama said.

But Obama acknowledged Congress was unlikely to move on priorities like a jobs bill or universal pre-K. He warned that, if lawmakers remained obsessed with attempting to repeal his signature healthcare law, he would find “wherever I can work on my own.”

Boehner, for his part, has warned Obama that he should not attempt to go around Congress with unilateral actions.

At a press conference last month, Boehner vowed House Republicans “will continue to look closely at whether the president is faithfully executing laws, as he took an oath to do.”

“We’re going to watch very closely, because there’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him, and following the Constitution is the basis for House Republicans,” Boehner said.

The Republican leader has also said the president needs to regain the trust of the GOP House caucus after a series of delays to the implementation of ObamaCare. Boehner's official Twitter feed posted a pair of stories criticizing the effect of ObamaCare on small business shortly after the conclusion of the meeting.

Earlier this month, Boehner said Republicans would be unlikely to take up immigration reform this year because of “widespread doubt” about Obama.

“There’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws,” Boehner said. “And it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

— This story was posted at 9:55 p.m. Monday and last updated at 1:55 p.m. Tuesday. 

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