President Obama may not move on executive actions for immigration reform this summer, the White House conceded on Tuesday.
"It's hard for me to at least at this point draw any clear conclusions about what the president's timing will be," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "There is the chance that it could be before the end of the summer. There is the chance that it could be after the summer."
The White House is thought to be considering a delay of the executive actions because of concerns from vulnerable Senate Democrats, many of whom have asked the president not to act before November’s midterms.
During a Rose Garden address earlier this year, Obama told reporters he expected recommendations from top administration officials "before the end of summer" and planned to adopt them "without further delay."
But the president last week sidestepped questions on whether the timetable for executive actions could be pushed back.
Obama hinted that developing the administration’s response to this summer's surge in migrant children crossing the border could affect progress on broader immigration reform efforts.
“Some of these things do affect timelines and we're just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” Obama said. “But have no doubt: In the absence of congressional action, I'm going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”
Earnest on Tuesday said the president was "basing this decision much more" on the substantive issues at hand, and that the administration was not "focused" on the politics behind the issue.
He also argued that the eventual moves were much more important "than the timing."
"What the president is concerned about is doing the best that he can to address as many problems as he can," Earnest said.
But Earnest conceded there was "no doubt that the White House has demonstrated" a desire to help Democrats battling for their political lives.
He also tacitly agreed that the president risked blowing through his own self-imposed deadline, saying Obama was using the "conventional widespread understanding" of "without further delay."
"I don't think the president was trying to be ambiguous," Earnest said.
The White House has still not received the recommendations, which are being formulated by Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and does not expect those recommendations within the week.
Earnest described "an open line of dialogue and communication between the White House and individuals who are working on this review."
"I would not anticipate that the president will get the final recommendations this week," Earnest said. "That could change.
“That doesn't mean the president isn't in regular consultation with members of his team both here at the White House and at these agencies about their ongoing review," he added.