Heads he wins, tails you lose. As Gabe Malor says, this deadline is completely unserious: It’d be bad enough for Republicans to pass a weak immigration bill next year, but that at least would have the virtue of giving the GOP’s new crop of senators a crack at voting on it. Trying to sneak a bill through the lame-duck session, before Cory Gardner, Joni Ernst, and the rest of the freshmen have a say, would mean all-out war at this point between Boehner, McConnell, and the base. Joe Biden at least seems to understand that. That’s why he floated a mid-February deadline at Friday’s White House summit with the GOP before Obama gave him a death stare that shut him up. I think Obama understands it too, actually. His ultimatum here is likely born not out of ignorance of Boehner’s predicament but a new determination to make Republicans pay politically after they swamped him last Tuesday. Issuing executive amnesty so soon after a landslide is an act of supreme defiance of the election results, in keeping with last week’s “I’m listening to all the people who didn’t vote” press conference. And it’s also a middle finger to congressional Democrats who spent the last six months giving him the “Barack who?” treatment on the stump. If executive amnesty puts them in a tough spot too, screw ’em. Besides, the only Dems left in Congress at this point are in states or districts so blue that they won’t lose in 2016 no matter how crazy he gets. He’s now fully entered the YOLO phase of his presidency.
Actually, maybe Obama doesn’t understand Boehner’s predicament. Here’s a tidbit from WSJ’s mini-bombshell on Friday about secret talks on immigration between the White House and the House GOP over the past year.
Mr. Obama offered Mr. Boehner what he saw as a compromise: The White House would defer executive action on immigration until after the summer to give the speaker maneuvering room, a deal Mr. Obama confirmed in his Wednesday news conference.
In the discussion, however, he 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.”
That has a ring of truth. Sounds like Boehner was asking him to deliver a certain number of House Democrats to help support a deal that would surely be opposed by House conservatives, but influencing Congress isn’t Obama’s thing. Remember when Harry Reid asked him for help twisting Mitch McConnell’s arm on presidential appointments and Obama waved him off? Reid and his staff have allegedly been stewing about that to this day. Or maybe this has less to do with O’s relationship with Congress than the fact that the guy simply doesn’t know how to horse-trade, a theory floated lately by commentators on both the left and the right recently. But now you see the beauty of executive amnesty: No matter how terrible you are at building majorities in Congress to support your agenda, you can always play your unconstitutional trump card and get your agenda enacted that way. I wonder which is the chicken and which is the egg there, in fact. Did O turn to executive orders because he’s a terrible negotiator? Or is he a terrible negotiator because he has no incentive to be a better one with that trump card in his back pocket?
Whatever the answer, if you believe WaPo, he’s eyeing an amnesty of around five million people, somewhere between the three million number that amnesty shills fear and the eight to 10 million figure that they’re hoping for. Watching these two (short) clips via the Corner, I’m amazed that Obama makes no attempt to explain why immigration is some sort of extraordinary problem that requires an extraordinary executive solution. The fear among liberals who are jittery about executive amnesty is that it’ll set a precedent that can be exploited by his Republican successor. E.g., President Ted Cruz could decide to lower income tax rates unilaterally, by executive order, while Congress bickers about tax reform. You would think, then, that O would go out of his way to explain why amnesty isn’t like taxes or health care or anything else but rather something unique and therefore without precedential value. Instead, Obama makes an expansive argument: His point here, essentially, is that there’s no real harm in him acting unilaterally because Congress can always pass a bill superseding his order. In that case, there’s nothing stopping President Cruz from installing a flat tax or suspending ObamaCare or anything else the GOP wants to do. So long as there are enough Republicans in Congress to deny Democrats a veto-proof majority in both chambers, his actions can’t be undone until a Democrat replaces him in the White House. The One’s setting an unbelievably terrible precedent — and making no effort to limit it. Wow.