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Obama's Immigration Stance Polarizes Political Sides

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And let's talk about another decision president Obama made. Last week, he unilaterally overhauled the nation's immigration policies, bypassing Congress and granting legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. Cokie Roberts on the program last week said the president acted after his party got clobbered in the midterm elections. Well, the president has spent the last week getting clobbered by critics. Cokie's back with us for some Monday morning political analysis. Hey, Cokie.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So the president getting all of this blowback now, none of this unexpected. And he doesn't seem to be backing off at all, right?

ROBERTS: No, not all. He's very much on the trail defending this policy. And he says he has been very restrained in his use of executive action compared to other presidents. He has said that Presidents Reagan and Bush did this in terms of immigration policy and that all he is exercising is prosecutorial discretion. But, you know, what he basically says is, send me a bill, Congress, go ahead. Send me a bill. Now, that'll be interesting to see if that happens.

Look, David, though, it is true that even people who agree with the President on the substance of this are voicing some concerns about presidential power because you give president power of your own party and then the present of the next party come in and says, well, I've got that power, too, and you don't like it so much.

GREENE: Well, send me a bill - the message to Congress. Now of course after the election, Republicans are going to be in charge, but are Republicans really in a box here on this issue?

ROBERTS: They are because - and of course that's part of what the president was doing here...

GREENE: Yeah.

ROBERTS: ...Putting them in a box. And they don't want to alienate Latino voters, but they also haven't been able to do a bill. So the president has basically called their bluff. And now they are really having a hard time figuring out what they are going to do. The leaders say, well, we'll find some way to respond, but we're not going to shut down the government and we're not going to impeach the president. Others in the party say, well, why not?

We had Raul Labrador, a Republican in the House, yesterday said the president should be censured. And Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas who was the architect of the last government shutdown over Obamacare, says, well, we shouldn't bring up any nominations. And we should - except national security nominations - and we should go through the government funding and a way to keep the president from doing this. And when others in his party say shutting down the government's a disaster, he says, how come you say that? We just won a great, big election, and I don't think it was a disaster at all.

GREENE: Well, Cokie, let me ask you about another area where Republicans have tried very hard to take on the Obama administration - that's the handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. We have this new report from the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee that seems to exonerate anyone in the the government from misleading the American people. Does this finally bring this to an end?

ROBERTS: No, nothing comes to an end.

GREENE: (Laughter) OK.

ROBERTS: No, there is now a special committee that has been named to look into this again - yet another. And there's a sense of - we heard Senator Lindsey Graham yesterday saying that the committee in the House had been somehow hoodwinked by the CIA. So it will go on and on. Look, David, what this mainly is is an attempt to get at Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state and assuming that she's running for president. And the Republicans just want to use this to smear her.

GREENE: All right, Cokie, we'll stop there. Good to talk to you as always.

ROBERTS: OK, David.

GREENE: She joins us here on Mondays. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.