WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama shrugged off criticism of his executive action on immigration with a challenge to House of Representatives Republicans: if you don’t like it, do something.
Obama was asked in an interview broadcast on Sunday about House Speaker John Boehner’s assertion that he was acting like an emperor in using executive powers to tackle the issue of the 11 million immigrants living in America without documents.
“Well, my response is pass a bill,” Obama said in the interview with ABC’s “This Week” taped on Friday. “Congress has a responsibility to deal with these issues and there are some things that I can’t do on my own.”
Obama announced on Thursday he was easing the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants. His measures include allowing some 4.4 million people who are parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents and who have been in the country for five years to remain in the country temporarily, with the right to work.
Obama, who has long said he preferred legislation to unilateral action, cited a bipartisan immigration bill passed by the U.S. Senate last year and urged the House to take it up.
Boehner has not given any indication he will act on immigration this year, and Republicans have been divided on how to respond to the executive order.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said on “Fox News Sunday” his party should use spending bills to withhold funds to implement the order. That could force Obama to veto vital funding bills, sparking a government shutdown similar to the one last year.
Cruz, who led that shutdown fight in an effort to block funds for the Obamacare health plan, said the big Republican gains in the midterm elections showed the shutdown was not a political blunder. Republicans will control the Senate and have a bigger House majority in the new Congress that begins in January.
“It was not a mistake for Republicans to stand up and fight Obamacare,” he said. “Republicans need to actually do what we say we’ll do.”
Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said Obama’s actions did not make the need for immigration reform any less pressing and said the House should pass the Senate bill.
“They still have time to pass that bill,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “There’s still clearly a persistent, urgent need to do that.”
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and John Whitesides; Editing by Frances Kerry and Stephen Powell