President Barack Obama on Friday took time out of his diplomatic trip to Asia to send a firm message to Washington that he is unrepentant about his plans to bypass Congress and take executive action on immigration.
"They have the ability to fix the system. What they don't have is the ability to do is expect me to stand by with a broken system in perpetuity," Obama said at a joint news conference with Myanmar dissident leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to Politico.
"It's way overdue. We've been talking about it for 10 years now and it's been consistently stalled."
The president insisted that unless Congress issues legislation first, he is determined to act before the end of the year on proposals that are expected to include extending amnesty and work permits to possibly millions of illegal immigrants.
"I gave the House over a year to at least give a vote on the Senate bill. They failed to do so," Obama said, according to Politico. "I indicated to Speaker [John] Boehner several months ago that if Congress failed to act, I would use all lawful authority that I possess … That's going to happen. And that's going to happen before the end of the year."
Republicans have been ratcheting up their threats that Obama's decision to act will set off an adversarial relationship with Congress so soon after both sides had pledged to move forward constructively following the shake-up from the midterm elections.
"We're going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path," Boehner told reporters Thursday, according to The Washington Post.
"This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn't want."
During his news conference, the president appeared to respond with his own warning to Republicans, saying he is against any approach to governance where "having a disagreement on a single issue suddenly [becomes] a deal-breaker on every issue."
"Democracy cannot work that way," he added, according to Politico. "There will always be some differences."
Obama also reiterated a previous promise that if congressional Republicans put forward a reform proposal, he will revoke any executive actions that he put into effect, Politico reported.
The president's comments come as Republicans grapple
with a strategy to derail the president's plans. A rift is developing within the party about the best way forward, threatening to undermine the party's post-election pledges to proceed with unity.
At least 50 conservative lawmakers are pushing to leverage the upcoming spending bill to force Obama to stand down.
Their plan is to stipulate in the legislation that the president cannot act unilaterally, an approach that would likely trigger a government shutdown when the president refuses to capitulate.
The leadership has not yet developed a clear alternative other than ruling out the possibility of a shutdown. One option they are considering is to allow the executive action to take effect but work to undermine its provisions incrementally over the coming months.
A lawsuit over the president's misuse of his authority is also an idea that has been floated.
A senior administration official said the president has still not decided the timing for his announcement, but The New York Times reported
Thursday that Obama may announce his planned action as soon as next week.
According to reports, final decisions about the details of the plan have not been made, but by some accounts, a proposal may grant amnesty to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants. Officials said it could also authorize amnesty for parents of children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and give them the right to obtain work documents.
Meanwhile, Democrats and immigration rights supporters are pushing for Obama to extend amnesty to as many migrants as possible. In recent days, they have been rallying behind the president's decision to take action, saying it is not out of step with other presidents who have acted unilaterally on major issues, the Post said.
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