GOP divided on detour map for executive order
WASHINGTON — There’s no doubt President Obama will issue executive orders changing immigration policy — the only question is when.
Obama, speaking to reporters in Myanmar, said he will act on immigration because congressional Republicans haven’t.
“There has been ample opportunity for Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration bill that would strengthen our borders, improve the legal immigration system and lift millions of people out of the shadows,” Obama said.
“I said that if, in fact, Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority I possess to try to make the system work better … and that’s going to happen before the end of the year,” he said.
House Republicans debated Friday how to respond to a series of executive actions that is likely to grant legal status to millions of migrants in the country illegally. GOP leaders are anxious to craft a solution that satisfies the demands of their most conservative members without courting a government shutdown.
Options under consideration include suing the president to overturn his action, passing a stand-alone bill to try to stop him or a lawsuit. Some are pushing for House Republicans to write their own immigration bill — something they’ve been unable to do in the past two years — to show they are serious about acting and pre-empt Obama.
But it’s not clear that any of these options will be enough to deflate efforts brewing among conservatives to use upcoming must-pass spending bills to block Obama from acting. Pragmatists in the caucus are warning loudly that such an approach could result in a government shutdown because Obama would likely veto the bill. But at least some on the right appear unconcerned.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he refused to “take a position we’re not going to use the power of the purse to restrain a president who has threatened to violate the Constitution in the most obscene manner possible.”
As for shutdown fears, King pointed to the GOP’s success in last week’s midterms as evidence that the party wasn’t hurt by the last government shutdown it provoked. That was a year ago, in an unsuccessful effort to “defund” Obama’s health care law.
“We picked up beaucoup seats in the House and won the vast majority in the Senate. Where’s the political penalty for doing the right and just and responsible thing?” King said.
Many Republicans, though, are determined to avoid a shutdown, convinced they would pay a political price.
“Shutting the government down would only serve the president’s interests and we shouldn’t take the bait. We Republicans shouldn’t take the bait,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
But some Republicans say they should act now to deprive Obama of that argument, although immigration advocates have little hope of the House arriving at a bill that could pass the Senate and that Obama would sign.
“Right now, if he does this and makes all these declarations of the House won’t do anything and yada yada yada, what’s our response? You’re right, we haven’t done anything,” said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. “Our only defense is we are working on it.”
Obama’s announcement could occur as early as next week.