WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama called on Congress Thursday to finish work on an immigration overhaul by the end of the year, a lofty goal that will be difficult to meet given the staunch opposition of many House Republicans.
While immigration remains one of Obama's top second term priorities, the issue has been overshadowed for months, most recently by the 16-day partial government shutdown. The president's shift to a greater focus on immigration came as the White House was seeking to shift the conversation away from the deeply problematic rollout of Obama's signature health care law.
In a talk at the White House, Obama insisted that Congress has the necessary time to finish an immigration bill by the end of the year. The Democratic-led Senate passed sweeping legislation this summer that would provide an eventual path to citizenship for some 11 million immigrants living here illegally and would tighten border security. But the measure has languished in the Republican-led House.
"It doesn't get easier to put it off," Obama said during an event at the White House.
The White House was buoyed by comments this week from Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who said he was optimistic his chamber could act on immigration by year's end. But Boehner has long had trouble rallying support from the conservative wing of his party and it's unclear whether he can get their backing for the comprehensive bill Obama is seeking.
Most House Republicans have said they prefer a piecemeal approach to fixing the nation's fractured immigration system.