Via the Corner. At first blush it seems like all he’s saying is that he’ll need to find some money somewhere to process illegal immigrant children now that Congress has failed to agree on a new appropriation. Not so. He’s saying more than that. I can’t find the link now but the NYT had a story a few weeks ago about White House strategy sessions on Obama’s looming amnesty for adult illegals. How, they wondered, could they get the public to accept unilaterally legalizing five million people at a moment when Americans are nervous about the border crisis and want to reduce the incentives for illegals to come here, not add more? Solution: Argue that the border crisis is kinda sorta forcing Obama to legalize America’s adult illegals. The federal government’s enforcement resources are scarce and are desperately needed at the border right now to stem the flow of Central American kids, so let’s leave the people alone who’ve already evaded deportation for five or 10 years and focus all of our attention on the Rio Grande. (Footnote: Obama’s party is also opposed to stemming the flow of kids. Only people who hate children support that.) What he’s doing here, in other words, is laying the rhetorical groundwork for his forthcoming amnesty. When it happens, he’ll point back to this and say “if only Congress had given me the money I asked for, maybe I wouldn’t have had to pull ICE workers off of their cases and reassign them to the border,” never mind that he’s already threatened to veto the House GOP’s bill giving him half a billion dollars more in enforcement. He never wanted Republicans to pass anything, and why should he? He’s established the sinister principle that when a gridlocked Congress can’t agree, the president can do what he wants. That means House Republicans can either do what Senate Democrats say or Obama will do it himself by executive order. He has all the leverage, and the more gridlock there is, the more emphatic his nonsense about being forced to act alone becomes.
But there’s a silver lining here. Yuval Levin:
Let’s imagine that a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, and that Republicans have a majority in the House while Democrats have a majority in the Senate. And let’s say the president and House Republicans try to lower everyone’s personal income-tax rates by 10 percent. The House manages to pass a bill to enact such an across-the-board cut, but Senate Democrats kill it. And let’s imagine that the president then proceeds to announce that, given how helpful he believes his preferred course of action would be to the economy, he will just implement the rate cut himself: His administration will not enforce any legal penalties against people in the 35 percent bracket who only pay a 25 percent tax on their incomes, people in the 25 percent bracket who only pay 15 percent, and so on.
Given some of the ways President Obama has been enforcing Obamacare (his suspension of the employer mandate, for instance), and given what he has already done and reportedly plans to do in immigration enforcement, what would the Democrats’ arguments against such a move by a Republican president consist of?
That’s where we are right now. There’s no legal argument for why Obama can declare a mass moratorium on deportations but President Rand Paul can’t refuse to enforce certain tax rates. The argument for doing one but not the other is political — the public is ambivalent about immigration reform in all its complexities but they’re ferociously opinionated about tax hikes and tax cuts. The only restraint on President Paul would be whether he thinks his job approval rating could sustain the hit. But Obama has established the policy precedent. Two can play at this game, and will.