Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama urged swift congressional approval of immigration reform on Tuesday, offering a potential opening to Republicans on the divisive presidential priority.
"Right now, everybody should be focused on making sure that that bill that's already passed out of the Senate hits the floor of– the House of Representatives. It's not as if the votes are not there. The votes are there," the president said in an interview with Telemundo.
"The only thing that's preventing it is– you know, Speaker Boehner's decided that– he doesn't wanna call it right now," he said.
Obama said he might be open to a House bill that takes a more piecemeal approach, as long as the legislation that reaches his desk "speaks to the central issues that have to be resolved" to fix the immigration system, from strong border security to making sure employers aren't taking advantage of undocumented workers.
Immigration reform would be a major achievement for Obama, especially with such sharp divisions in Congress, and is seen by many as crucial for Republican efforts to gain more support among Hispanics.
But time is limited this year on the legislative calendar, and looks even narrower with fights looming on federal spending, Obamacare and raising the nation’s debt ceiling, or borrowing authority, to pay its bills.
The Senate bill passed in June would allow undocumented workers to gain provisional legal status, but then requires a series of security and enforcement provisions to be in place before those immigrants can gain full citizenship.
The Senate is a non-starter for most House conservatives.
CNN White House Producer Becky Brittain contributed to this report.