[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he news is out: Barack Obama is preparing to wave the red flag in the face of the bull, to borrow Mitch McConnell’s elegant phrasing, as soon as next week. And Obama’s team seems delighted by the prospect.
The red flag is, of course, Obama’s threat/promise/vow to issue executive orders on illegal immigration. According to reports, this “executive amnesty” — in Ted Cruz’s words — would protect as many as six million illegal immigrants from deportation.
And the bull? Do I really have to say?
It’s no secret why Obama is moving forward on immigration. In taking this politically risky step — which will no doubt inflame many people — he is counting on at least two mitigating factors:
[pullquote]Republicans have been asking Obama to hold off so they could have time to do something about immigration in the new Congress. You may remember the current Congress, in which the Senate passed immigration reform with 68 votes and the House has done … nothing.[/pullquote]
One, that he’s doing the right thing. The inability of Congress over many years to pass immigration reform is clearly a major scandal. Polls consistently show most Americans want something done. Let’s be honest. Immigrants have been lured to come here illegally, often at great risk, with the promise of jobs and the offer of a devil’s bargain that, to get those jobs, they’ll be forced to live in a shadow economy with the constant threat of being deported.
Two, that Republicans — as outraged as ever — will overreach in their response to the news and inevitably drive Latino voters ever further from the party.
If you haven’t been counting — and if not, now might be the time to start — there are many ways to get to overreach. The most likely would be a government shutdown, which some House conservatives are already predictably demanding. A vote to fund the government is due next month, providing a handy battleground. Let’s just say that Obama and Ted Cruz both appreciate the timing.
The Washington Post reports that Republicans are divided in how to respond. McConnell, soon to be Senate majority leader, says there will be no shutdown, bull or no bull. Meanwhile, Speaker John Boehner says all options are on the table, presumably including a shutdown and, yes, his lawsuit. (Bet you forgot about the House lawsuit against Obama. Now it could include immigration. And, I know, maybe a quarantine.)
You know how Cruz sees the situation. We’re waiting to hear from Cory “Shutdowns Are Bad” Gardner, who really doesn’t want to have to vote on this, having insisted during his entire campaign that he never voted for a shutdown.
The most absurd overreach would, of course, be impeachment, which definitely won’t happen because no one is that, well, incautious. But the talk is starting on talk-radio and FoxNews, and that’s absurd enough. Charles Krauthammer warns that Obama is trying to trick Republicans into doing something rash and says that although the executive orders (as yet to be released) would (in any case) be an impeachable offense, Republicans shouldn’t be tempted.
And as you may have noticed, the latest midterm shellacking seems to have only energized Obama, who is on a tear. He finally called for Internet neutrality — setting off the usual suspects. He got China to agree to a major climate change pact — Chinese communists being an easier sell on carbon emissions than American Republicans. And now, as soon as he returns from his Asia trip, it’s apparently on to immigration, which Obama had put off as a favor to shaky Democratic Senate candidates, like Colorado’s own Mark Udall, many of whom — like Colorado’s own Mark Udall — lost anyway.
The funniest part of this is that Republicans have been asking Obama to hold off so they could have time to do something about immigration in the new Congress. You may remember the current Congress, in which the Senate passed immigration reform with 68 votes and the House has done … nothing. That’s because the bill, if it had come to a vote in the House, would have passed, and that would have meant a victory for Obama.
At the time, Boehner explained his inaction by saying he wouldn’t trust Obama — the Deporter In Chief — to enforce the law. Now he’s saying that if Obama acts without Congress that Republicans will be so miffed that they’ll never pass an immigration bill.
So, if you’re asking why Boehner would trust Obama now or why anyone should think Republicans are on the verge of handing Obama a victory now, you have a great sense for the obvious.
Yes, the elephant in the room is, in fact, the elephant in the room. And, of course, whatever Obama does, House Republicans could decide to vote now on the Senate bill, and that would become the law. Or they could vote, at any time, on another bill. And if they could get it through the Senate and get Obama’s signature, that would become the law. Obama’s executive orders would become moot.
In any case, the way I understand it, Obama would basically be setting priorities for which immigrants could be deported. Democrats have consulted experts who say that is within the presidential powers as granted by, you know, Congress. Some conservative law experts disagree.
And so, we can expect lawsuits. We can expect outrage. We can also expect life to be better for maybe half the immigrants here without papers. And we can expect this to be a major issue in the 2016 presidential race. Guess which side is delighted by that prospect.
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