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President Barack Obama is being deliberately divisive by planning a controversial executive action on immigration, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., told CNBC on Thursday.
"Once again we have a situation where the president is intentionally misleading the people, misdirecting, saying one thing and doing another, [and] setting himself up as some kind of judge and jury and executioner, which is not what you would expect in a democracy. It's what you would see in a dictatorship," Barrasso said in an interview with "Closing Bell."
On Thursday night, the president is expected to announce plans that will extend legal status to several million people who are relatives of green card holders or U.S. citizens. The move has prompted an outcry by Republicans.
Barrasso insisted immigration reform should be taken up by the newly elected Congress, which will tackle the issue piece by piece.
"The president is not going to get everything he wants, but there are areas of common ground," Barrasso said.
Instead, what Obama is doing is "intentionally designed to be divisive at a time where he continues to be unpopular as a president and ineffective."
Obama's move comes just before the new GOP-controlled Congress convenes in January. However, while the divide in Washington is only deepening, Barrasso insisted there will not be a government shutdown.
"What's being shutdown is the opportunity to work together cooperatively and find common ground on improving the immigration system in the U.S. in terms of modernization," he said.
However, while Republicans are blasting the president for bypassing Congress with his executive action, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said that Obama's move is not a substitute for congressional action.
"The president does have the authority to prioritize enforcement and that is what he's doing. It's not going to be substitute for a comprehensive immigration bill," he told "Closing Bell."
In fact, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration bill more than a year ago, Van Hollen said, but it has been sitting in the House.
"The best way to reflect the will of the people is for the people's House to vote on it. Let's vote tonight, let's vote tomorrow. But let's vote," he said. "The speaker has decided to not allow democracy to work its will."