President Obama is “looking forward” to taking executive action on immigration, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in an interview published Tuesday.
“The president is disappointed that this legislative solution won’t be achieved, but the president is looking forward to taking executive action on his own, to solve as many of these problems as he can,” Earnest told Fusion.
The president’s vow to act unilaterally has emerged as a major sticking point between the White House and congressional Republicans, who say last week’s election results show voters do not want the president to act without Congress.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) warned Obama against making executive orders during a meeting Friday at the White House, while the president reiterated his intention to move forward before the end of the year.
Republicans have cautioned that Obama’s action could poison the well for legislation in the final two years of his presidency. Earnest said he hoped that wasn’t the case.
“We shouldn’t allow those differences to interfere with our ability to try to find some areas of common ground. There is common ground around areas like trade, in areas like investing in quality early childhood education programs. Both sides agree that tax reform is long overdue,” Earnest said.
The White House also pushed back on a New York Times editorial that expressed concern Obama’s plan “will be too cautious, small and narrow” in scope. Immigration activists have said the president could provide new protections to as many as 7 million immigrants and urged him to veer away from an approach that might cover fewer people.
“If we’re in a position where we think that changing the lives of 2 million immigrants in this country is timid, I don’t think that’s most people’s definition of timid,” Earnest said.
Still, Earnest stressed Obama had not made a final decision on how to proceed and that the president would “take every step he can” to address problems in the immigration system.