Published December 20, 2015
President Obama warned Friday that he will act on his own to address immigration challenges along the southern border, as Congress prepared to leave for the August recess without sending a bill to his desk.
The House continues to work on passing some version of legislation to address the border crisis, but the Senate already has adjourned without passing a bill and has no votes scheduled until September.
"While they're out on vacation, I'm going to have to make some tough choices to meet the challenge, with or without Congress," Obama said Friday, speaking to reporters in the White House briefing room.
He later added: "I'm going to have to act alone, because we don't have enough resources."
Unclear is whether Obama plans to use executive authority to achieve narrowly tailored goals, like sending additional resources to the border, or pursue broader and more controversial changes like suspending deportations for illegal immigrants.
The president reserved pointed words for House Republicans, whom he accused of playing political games right before the five-week recess.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner countered that "when it comes to the humanitarian crisis on our southern border, President Obama has been completely AWOL" and claimed House Republicans are the "only ones" still working to address the crisis.
House Republicans are still working to pass a bill to address the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of unaccompanied minors have arrived in recent months. But Obama said the bill is "going nowhere," describing it as a "message bill."
Though the Senate also has not passed a bill, Obama blasted House Republicans for crafting a measure he described as "extreme and unworkable." Even if it passes the Senate, he said, he would veto it.
The president also tried to use Republicans' words against them. After a vote on the immigration bill fell apart on Thursday, House GOP leaders put out a statement saying there are "numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now" to secure the borders and safely deport the children. Obama and his allies have used this statement to challenge Republicans' past criticism of the president's use of executive actions.
Obama said Friday that Republicans were suggesting "I should act on my own."
Republicans, though, are specifically concerned that Obama will use executive orders to suspend deportations and potentially give work permits to millions of illegal immigrants. They plan to use legislation being debated Friday to include restrictions on such actions.
Obama's statement also comes amid the quick collapse of a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. With the brief pause in fighting now over, Israeli forces have moved deeper into southern Gaza in search of a soldier apparently kidnapped earlier Friday.
Obama defended his administration against criticism about the slow-moving progress toward resolving problems on the world stage. "There are a lot of conflicts America doesn't resolve," he said. But he defended Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts in the Middle East.
As for the conflict in Ukraine, he said bluntly that the "evidence suggests" Russia's arming of the separatists there may have resulted in "300 innocent people" dying when the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine earlier this month.
He said that if Russia continues to arm separatists, "you're going to face consequences that will hurt your country" -- referring to sanctions moved by the U.S. and European Union earlier this week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.