WH: Rubio's constitutional concerns on immigration action unwarranted

The White House pushed back at Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioColbert: Students taking action on gun violence 'give me hope' Lawmakers feel pressure on guns Florida lawmaker's aide fired after claiming shooting survivors were 'actors' MORE (R-Fla.) over his criticism of the president's plans to take executive action on immigration, saying whatever steps the president takes would be within his legal authority.

"I note that Sen. Rubio's statement talks about illegal action. Well, obviously that's not what the president's going to do," White House communications director Jen Palmieri said during an interview with MSNBC.

"What the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security are doing is looking for options within our legal authority to do two things. One is to deal with the overall problem that's left unaddressed by the failure to pass immigration reform. But also to look at what we need to do at the Rio Grande border to deal with the influx of immigrants who have been coming through that area as well."

In an interview with Breitbart News published Tuesday, Rubio, who may seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, warned that potential executive action raises "very serious constitutional issues." In a letter sent the same day to the White House, Rubio said that if Obama acted, he would "close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future."

Palmieri said the White House had been upfront with Rubio and other congressional leaders about its intention to act unilaterally if lawmakers did not pass a bill.

"We were going to give the Congress part of the summer to act on immigration reform and hold off on making any executive actions to give them time to go through that process. We did that," she said. "Speaker Boehner made it clear that they were not going to be able to move forward with immigration reform."

She said the White House was also taking into consideration what the possible political and practical ramifications of opting to take action were — including concerns from some vulnerable Senate Democrats who have also asked the president not to move ahead.

"We're hearing a lot from both sides of people who are interested in the president taking action as soon as possible in a robust manner, people who are concerned about it," she said.

"We're taking this all into consideration and hearing everybody out," she added.