By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top White House adviser said on Friday Republicans might try to impeach President Barack Obama over his go-it-alone immigration strategy, as Obama prepared to talk about the U.S. border crisis with Central American presidents.
Dan Pfeiffer, one of Obama's longest-serving advisers, told reporters that the executive actions Obama will approve at the end of the summer aimed at tackling illegal immigration will likely generate ire from Republicans who have blocked comprehensive immigration legislation.
Republicans in the House of Representatives are expected next week to authorize a lawsuit against Obama on charges he has overstepped his constitutional authority by signing a series of executive orders this year on issues such as raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers.
Pfeiffer, speaking at a reporters' breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor, said he could easily see Republicans moving to impeachment proceedings to try to remove Obama from power in retaliation for the immigration orders he is expected to unveil by the end of the summer.
"The president acting on immigration reform will certainly up the likelihood that they would contemplate impeachment," he said. He said it would be "foolish to discount the possibility" that Republicans will at least consider it.
Many Republicans, however, see the Republicans' plans for a lawsuit to be aimed at restraining conservatives from seeking Obama's impeachment, knowing a move that strong could backfire as the party seeks to take over the Senate in November congressional elections.
A lawsuit would have far less impact than impeachment because it would be a legal proceeding in federal court to get a ruling on whether Obama went farther than the Constitution allows. Impeachment would be aimed at removing him from office, a far more dramatic course of action that is rarely used.
Obama contends his use of executive orders is no different than the powers used by his predecessors, and is inherently legal. His use of them has been relatively restrained compared with other presidents. Obama signed 147 in his first term, compared with George W. Bush's 173, Bill Clinton's 200 and Ronald Reagan's 213 for their first terms in office.
TRYING TO STEP FLOW OF CHILDREN
Beyond his goal of trying to making changes to U.S. immigration policy, Obama is struggling to contain a crisis on the Texas border with Mexico where tens of thousands of children have surged across in recent months, overwhelming border resources.
Obama is to meet the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador on Friday afternoon seeking their help in stemming the wave of border crossers, most of whom have traveled from those three countries.
Honduran President Juan Hernandez said on Thursday that U.S. lawmakers' inability to reach an agreement on immigration policy was at least partly to blame for the crisis.
U.S. officials blame misinformation spread by human smugglers who have told parents their children will be given safe haven in the United States if they send them there.
A senior White House official said Obama would seek the leaders' help in countering that message with one that the children more than likely will be sent back home.
Part of an emergency $3.7 billion border funding request from the Obama administration, about $300 million, would be allocated toward helping the countries create more favorable conditions at home so people are not tempted to leave.
But there has been little apparent progress yet in Congress toward a border funding bill that Democrats and Republicans could agree upon.
(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Frances Kerry)