Obama chief of staff to huddle with Dems

White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughWe have a golden opportunity to restore and reform VA hospitals The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Schwarzenegger donates 25 tiny homes to homeless vets in LA MORE is expected to visit Senate Democrats for their weekly lunch on Thursday, according to a congressional aide.

McDonough will discuss the agenda for the lame-duck session, as well as the economy, the Democratic official said. A senior administration official described the meeting as "part of our ongoing, regular congressional outreach."


But his visit is also certain to prompt speculation that President Obama is nearing a final decision on his executive order on immigration.

Democratic leaders in the Senate sent the White House a letter on Monday urging Obama to “improve as much of the immigration system as you can.” 

“We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority, and will stand behind you to support changes to keep families together while continuing to enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety,” the senators wrote.

Later that day, Reid said he believed Obama should take the action immediately — reversing course from the prior week, when he implored Obama to wait until after lawmakers had struck an agreement on a government funding measure. There was concern among some Democrats that making the announcement before such a deal could allow Republicans to attach language defunding the executive order to a continuing resolution (CR).

The White House said Tuesday it had been weighing the legislative strategy behind the announcement, but said ultimately, it probably wouldn't be a difference-maker in deciding the timing. Separately, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that an announcement could come as soon as Thursday, when McDonough is meeting with the lawmakers.

"My sense is that, even if the president doesn’t announce anything until late in December, that will not prevent Republicans from pre-emptively trying to attach to the CR or an omnibus bill a proposal to make the implementation of that executive action harder," press secretary Josh Earnest said.

McDonough huddled with Senate Democrats Nov. 12, urging lawmakers to push through as many of the president's nominees as possible in the lame duck. At the time, there were more than 160 nominees pending on the Senate calendar. Four ambassadors were approved Monday night.

“We really want to make sure that we get our nominations, so we can undertake all these important efforts that we’re leading across the globe,” McDonough said

The White House chief of staff also pressed lawmakers to pass a funding bill as well as emergency funding to fight the Ebola virus.