By Justin Sink - 05/16/14 10:13 AM EDT
White House aide Valerie Jarrett is clarifying remarks that suggested Speaker John Boehner had committed to moving immigration reform this summer.
Jarrett said her comments at an event in Las Vegas were “lost in translation.”
Jarrett during a forum in Las Vegas on Thursday said she believed House Republicans would move forward with a bill.
“I think we have a window this summer, between now and August, to get something done,” Jarrett said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “We have a commitment from Speaker Boehner, who’s very frustrated with his caucus.”
Some interpreted Jarrett’s comments as an indication that Boehner had promised the White House he’d hold a vote on immigration reform legislation before the midterm elections.
Boehner’s every move on immigration is under close scrutiny.
The Speaker has called the legislation a priority, and last month made headlines when he mocked conservative members of his caucus who have opposed the legislation. The Ohio lawmaker also raised eyebrows when he told a closed-door meeting with donors he was “hellbent” on advancing legislation.
The Speaker subsequently insisted that he was only teasing his colleagues, and reiterated that the House would not vote on a comprehensive bill that passed the Senate last year. Boehner has also said that members of his caucus were wary of President Obama, and that the president had to convince Republicans he would enforce border security for immigration reform to move.
That sentiment was echoed by Boehner spokesman Michael Steel when he was asked to respond to Jarrett's comments in Las Vegas.
“Republicans are committed to reforming our immigration system, but as the Speaker has said repeatedly, it’s difficult to see how we make progress until the American people have faith that President Obama will enforce the law as written,” Steel said Friday.
White House press secretary Jay Carney also downplayed Jarrett's comments, saying they simply reflected that Boehner and other Republican leaders "have all expressed deep interest in moving forward on immigration."
"We have found those comments and that interest to be encouraging," he said.
Carney also denied that Obama viewed the end of August as a deadline for the president to move forward with executive action in lieu of Congress, arguing the White House was still focused on shepherding through legislation. The administration is currently undertaking a review of if the president could change deportation procedures unilaterally to make them more "humane."
"There are some things that require congressional action, and this is one of them," Carney said.
Jarrett’s comments are closely scrutinized because she is seen as being one of the closest advisers and friends to the president and the first lady.
She appeared optimistic that immigration reform legislation could move forward before the midterm elections, and said the White House was open to a variety of legislative approaches.
“There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat,” Jarrett said. “I feel very encouraged about immigration reform. I think you’re going to see mounting pressure.”