President Obama Defends Executive Authority on Immigration

U.S. President Barak Obama speaks to the media during a press conference at the end of the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.PlayRob Griffith/AP Photo
WATCH Obama to Go it Alone on Immigration?

Showing no signs of backing down, President Obama strongly pushed back against critics questioning his authority to bypass Congress and act unilaterally to reform the nation’s immigration system.

“There is a very simple solution to this perception that somehow I'm exercising too much executive authority: pass a bill I can sign on this issue,” he said at a Sunday news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia.

If Congress does act, Obama said, “Metaphorically, I'll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we'll toss them in the wastebasket because we will now have a law that addresses these issues.”

The president said he has received legal advice from his attorney general about the limits of his executive power to act on immigration, but would not comment further.

“I will tell them when I make the announcement,” he told ABC News. “Good try, though.”

Asked about the Republican threat of a government shutdown to block his executive action, the president was optimistic.

“I take [Senate Republican Leader Mitch] McConnell at his word when he says that the government isn’t going to shut down," he said. "There’s no reason for it to shut down. We traveled down that path before. It was bad for the country. It was bad for every elected official in Washington, and at the end of the day, it was resolved in the same way it would have been resolved if we hadn’t shut the government down.”

Is talk of a shutdown affecting the timing of his action on immigration?

“No,” Obama said. “I think the main concern I have is to make sure we get it right. And that’s what we’re focused on at this point. Because any executive action I take is going to require some adjustments to how DHS – the Department of Homeland Security – operates ... I want to make sure that we’ve crossed all our T’s and dotted all our I’s. That’s my main focus.”