On Tuesday, Oscar Alfaro and his wife, Enriqueta, received a rare piece of good news: Their daughter Jelin, 15, had been granted temporary legal status under President Obama’s “dreamer” policy, which offered half a million young illegal immigrants protection from deportation for two years.
On Friday, the Alfaros joined scores of other illegal immigrants at a rally across from the White House, asking that Obama grant the same protection to them by using his executive authority to extend “deferred deportation” to millions of adults who entered the United States illegally…
“This is the moment. There can be no more excuses,” Gustavo Torres, the group’s executive director, told the crowd of several hundred gathered under chilly gray skies. “The president has the power to act, and he must act now,” he said, asking that Obama grant deportation relief to “all workers and parents” who are in the United States illegally.
At the White House today, Speaker Boehner met with President Obama, Vice President Biden and the bicameral, bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate to discuss a range of topics, including the economy, immigration, and our efforts to degrade and destroy the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)…
The Speaker warned that unilateral action by the president on executive amnesty will erase any chances of doing immigration reform and will also make it harder for Congress and the White House to work together successfully on other areas where there might otherwise be common ground.
A senior GOP aide with knowledge of the meeting’s events said Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s message on the issue was “very forceful” — and that Obama seemed taken aback by it. The intense brushback spawned 30 minutes of Obama defending himself on the issue and was a dominant issue in the meeting, the source said…
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters following the meeting she argued that Obama has legal authority to issue an executive amnesty, citing small-scale executive actions by previous presidents on immigration.
2nd GOP source describes Boehner's msg as that not only wld exec amnesty destroy immigration rfm, but severaly hamper other bipart deals
— Jonathan Strong (@j_strong) November 7, 2014
Dems "did not react well" to this, the source says.
— Jonathan Strong (@j_strong) November 7, 2014
Among the causes of the standoff: a year of previously unreported talks between Messrs. Boehner and Obama over a legislative compromise to fix the balky immigration system.
The two men started talking after the 2012 election, according to detailed accounts provided by several aides on both sides. The discussions ended this summer with the two sitting stony-faced around a white wrought-iron table outside the Oval Office…
In the discussion, however, [Obama] followed up with his go-to talking point in dealings with Mr. Boehner: “There will never be another Republican president again if you don’t get a handle on immigration reform.”
Mr. Boehner resented getting advice from a Democratic president on how to make Republicans a viable political force. What he wanted was more specific: A strategy to build a coalition in the House that could pass a bill.
It became increasingly common, aides said, for Mr. Boehner to hang up the phone with Mr. Obama and sigh: “He just doesn’t get it.”
The lame duck session hasn’t yet convened, but its first major battle — over how best to thwart the executive action on immigration the president is expected to issue in the coming months — is already underway. Conservatives are pushing to include a measure attempting to deny the government the funds it needs to administer the amnesty in a must-pass spending bill, the so-called continuing resolution…
Senator Harry Reid is sure to oppose a continuing resolution with this restriction, and even if it got past the Senate, President Obama would almost certainly veto it. That raises the specter of a government shutdown, the prospect of which is not going over well with House leadership. According to a leadership aide, leaders will consult with members about how best to respond to an executive amnesty “in a way that keeps the government open.” One of the options cited by the aide is including the forthcoming amnesty in the lawsuit that House speaker John Boehner is filing against President Obama for taking unilateral actions that he considers executive overreach.
Some Republicans are already strategizing about how to avoid the blame for a shutdown: One Senate aide says a preemptive move to prevent an amnesty or a move in the immediate wake of one will put the onus on the president. Others think there’s no way for Republicans to avoid looking like obstructionists.
On Thursday, former DNC chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell suggested April or even June as a potential deadline after which Obama could tell Republicans he’ll act if Congress doesn’t send him a bill.
“There are two ways I think he could go about it. One, he could impose a timeline now, say, ‘If you send me a bill by April of next year, I won’t issue an executive order, but here’s the executive order I will issue if you don’t send me a bill,’” Rendell said on a conference call hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank. “Or he can issue the executive order now and say, ‘As soon as you send me a bill I’ll sign it, and then if I can sign I will sign — obviously it will supersede the executive order.’”
Immigration bill won a huge bipartisan majority in the Senate. POTUS should agree to shelve exec order for up or down vote in House.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 5, 2014
But it will also very likely split the aggressive anti-immigrant Republican wing from the insecure “Can’t we just put this issue behind us?” caucus. The first group considers immigrants both an existential threat to American identity and a priceless opportunity for demagogy. The latter group, hoping to win a presidential election in 2016, will be balanced precariously between expressing anger at Obama and wondering exactly where the point of no return is for Hispanic voters. The party’s presidential aspirants will mostly find their incentives aligned with immigration opponents…
Obama has been a remarkably poor political communicator for someone with an obvious gift for narrative. But even he will be able to point out that the Republican plan comes down to maintaining a status quo that they themselves claim is broken. Before the game gets to that point, however, various Republican loudmouths will have had a grand time making the party sound bigoted, backward and mean. And they will demand another vote — this one with higher stakes — to shut the door for good on “amnesty.”
Of course, it’s always possible that McConnell and Boehner could see Obama and raise him — rallying their party to pass comprehensive legislation that addresses core issues while rationalizing the most illogical elements of immigration law. If you’re chuckling at the preposterous naivete of such a suggestion, rest assured that Obama, battered and beaten as he is by another midterm debacle, can still appreciate a joke.
The green movement and labor are, as ever, torn on any vote to approve the Keystone pipeline. On Wednesday, Trumka reiterated that the AFL-CIO wanted the pipeline built, while greener progressives planned one more campaign to stop it. The left only came together on immigration, and on the clear political benefits of an executive order coming down as soon as politically possible.
That meant mid-December, after the lame duck Congress finished its work and after Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu won or lost her runoff election. That meant making a call that polled terribly, and that many Democrats would condemn—but that would win Latino voters when they were at risk of revolting.
“It’s like a powder keg,” said Frank Sharry, the president of America’s Voice. “There’s more concern that maybe they’ll try to chop it down more, just because they’re chickenshit. But if they work their way through the punditry, they should remember the old rule: If your opponents don’t want it, there’s a reason why.”
The president’s use of broad executive action would kill any chance of compromise or progress with Congress. And the amazing thing is that this isn’t even in his interests.
What is in his interests is for him to go forward in a spirit of compromise and try to reach agreements on the Hill through negotiations. This would be a relief after six years of nonstop acrimony. Republicans need an end of acrimony too: They want to show that they’re not just shutdown artists, as their foes say, but that they are a governing party in whose hands the country is safe. After a few bills were passed, people would start to feel that they were seeing progress. This would help the president get a new sentence defining him. The current sentence is something like, “Wow, that didn’t work, he really had the wrong skill sets.” Two years of governing peace might get him, “He had a dynamic first two years, lost the thread, was re-elected, then there was a lot of mess but he stabilized and got serious.” That’s not a bad sentence.
It is confounding—not surprising but stunning, unhelpful and ill-judged—that the president is instead going for antagonism, combat and fruitless friction…
It’s as if he doesn’t think he has to work with others, he only has to be right. I think Mr. Obama sees himself as a centrist because he often resists the pressures of the leftward-most edge of his base. Therefore in his imagination he is in the middle, the center. If he is in the middle of a great centrist nation, how can they turn on him? The answer: They are confused. This is their flaw, not his. He’s not going to let their logical flaws change his game.
To be a national party, Democrats need to contend for rural and small-town voters, for older voters, for working-class white voters, for white Catholics, even for suburban evangelicals. This requires not just a populist economic message (which is important) but the recognition of a set of values — a predisposition toward social order, family and faith — that is foreign to most liberal bloggers and Democratic strategists. In Colorado, for example, Democrats tried to apply a blue-state strategy — emphasizing abortion rights and the supposed Republican “war on women” — in a purple state. It backfired. (In contrast, Bill Ritter was elected governor of Colorado in 2006 as a pro-life Democrat.) In the Obama era, nearly every cultural signal sent by the national Democratic Party would be applauded in the faculty lounge.
It is possible for progressives to admire Obama for his courage — in passing Obamacare on a party line, in insisting that Catholic institutions facilitate contraceptive coverage, now in promising an executive “amnesty” before the end of the year. He is a leader intent on shaping events, while almost entirely (on recent evidence) unshaped by them. Some will applaud.
But it is impossible to make the case that Obama has been an inclusive or unifying leader. He has left his party more ideologically and geographically uniform. He has left a riven society and political culture. And these should also be counted as Obama’s gifts.