Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday implored President Barack Obama not to take unilateral action on deportations and to instead give Republicans an opportunity to address immigration reform once the new Congress convenes in January.
"I literally am pleading with the president of the United States not to act," McCain said on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports." "Give it a chance. We have a new Congress. We have a new mandate. Let's let the House of Representatives decide if they want to move forward with immigration reform."
After promising to take executive action on immigration by the end of the summer, Obama delayed his plans until after the midterm elections. He told reporters on Wednesday that he would act "before the end of the year" and that he has legal authority to grant deportation relief to a yet unspecified number of undocumented immigrants.
McCain, an advocate of immigration reform and a member of the "Gang of Eight" senators who helped shepherd a comprehensive bill through the Senate last year, said he believed Republicans would act on an issue imperative to the party's chances to retaking the White House.
"I believe we can make progress, beginning in the House of Representatives, if the president would hold off and let's see what happens rather than doing this. I mean, it just -- I have spent many years, as you know, working on this issue. And I hate to see this turn of events," he said.
Both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, urged Obama not to "poison the well" on broader reform with their newly elected GOP majority.
"When you play with matches, you run the risk of burning yourself. And the president is going to burn himself," Boehner told reporters on Thursday.
Watch McCain's remarks above.