President Obama can stand the heat over his delay of executive action on immigration reform if it preserves political support for a comprehensive deal, the White House said Monday.

“The president’s willing to take a little political heat from the pundits, from some of the advocates in the Hispanic community, in particular, in order to ensure that the policy that he puts forward is one that can be sustained,” press secretary Josh Earnest said Monday.

{mosads}Pressed why an executive order that does not require congressional approval would be any more or less sustainable after Election Day, Earnest said members of the GOP who opposed immigration reform would “be in less of a position to distort the facts” after Nov. 4.

“I don’t think any of the Republican candidates right now are contemplating a six-figure ad buy the third week in November,” Earnest said. “Are they? If they are, I hope they’ll spend their money that way, but they’re not going to.”

The White House announced over the weekend it was delaying any executive action to address the issue until after the midterm elections. Officials have cited repeatedly, as Earnest did Monday, a “sharply political polarized environment,” but he declined to characterize it explicitly as a move to help vulnerable Senate Democrats.

Instead, Earnest said Monday that by waiting until after the electoral season, the administration could “preserve the strong public support that currently exists for immigration reform.”

“Injecting it into the highly charged political debate six or eight weeks before the midterm elections is to subject this issue to gross distortion and partisanship that could alter that balance, and we don’t want to do that,” Earnest said.

The White House also predicted that delay would make the issue less potent in the midterms, even though the president was still dedicated to act on immigration before the end of the year.

“There is a difference between the president indicating a willingness to act and … actually announcing what that action is,” Earnest said. “I think there is a tangible difference there, in a way that will reduce the amount of incoming, if you will, that the issue will take.”

The White House spokesman downplayed the idea that concerns over individual Senate races played an outsized role in the decision.

“Maybe it would hurt some others. Maybe it would galvanize base Democratic voters. Maybe it would energize Latino supporters. Maybe it would provoke Republican candidates into doing outrageous things like shutting down the government in a way that would benefit Democrats,” Earnest said. “There are a lot of people with a lot of different views about what possible impact this could have on individual races.”

But he maintained there was “no arguing about the fact that injecting this issue into this sharply political, polarized environment would be bad for the issue.” 


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