Is this really “breaking news” if it was sadly predictable all along? The AP thought so:
BREAKING: White House officials: Obama to delay immigration action until after November election.
— The Associated Press (@AP) September 6, 2014
They lead the actual story by emphasizing that Barack Obama broke a promise by kicking this can down the road:
Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration until after the November congressional elections, White House officials said.
The move is certain to infuriate immigration advocates while offering relief to some vulnerable Democrats in tough Senate re-election contests.
Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul.
Ahem. The issue of politicization comes primarily from circumventing Congress, not just the timing of it. However, this makes the entire project look a lot more political now. If it’s the right thing to do, why hasn’t Obama done it already? Isn’t that what “leadership” is supposed to be about? Why would it be the wrong thing to do in early September but the right thing to do in late November?
As far as worrying about the damage it will do to “pass[ing] a broad overhaul,” that’s an argument for not issuing unilateral decrees at all. Does anyone believe that Congress will take the short period of time between now and the election to pass a massive comprehensive-immigration bill? They’ll be lucky to pass a continuing resolution that will take the federal budget to December in that time frame. After the election, attention will return to the rest of the FY2015 budget. Any movement on immigration would have to wait until the next session of Congress, and everyone knows it.
This is nothing more than a head fake to keep voters from punishing Democrats for Obama’s attempts to abuse the separation-of-powers structure in American government. Republican candidates should use this transparently pusillanimous maneuver to put their Democratic opponents on the spot, and remind voters that Obama’s just waiting until after the election to steamroll Congress. Why not elect a Republican Senate to tighten the check on Obama’s exercise of power in light of this head-fake attempt?
Addendum: By the way, what does this say about the polling for Obama’s EO project? Supposedly, this would have elevated Obama with Hispanic voters and his progressive base. The sudden move away from it before the election strongly suggests that those gains would be outstripped by the damage it would do elsewhere. Perhaps, say, among union voters, blue-collar workers, and independents?
Update: Ed O’Keefe confirms that the White House has begun to inform Congressional leaders of this decision:
CONFIRMED: White House formally telling lawmakers and advocacy groups that Obama will delay decision on #immigration until after elections
— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) September 6, 2014
And John Nolte expands on my point on GOP strategy:
Punting on his lawless immigration action will only give the GOP a bigger talking point b4 elections. Unknown scarier than known.
— John Nolte (@NolteNC) September 6, 2014
It’s a sword of Damocles hanging over Democratic candidates now.
Update: And there’s also this, from USA Today’s Susan Page:
Rule of thumb: When the White House puts out a big news story on a Saturday morning, they don't really want you to notice.
— Susan Page (@SusanPage) September 6, 2014
Too late! MT “@SusanPage: Rule of thumb: When the WH puts out a big news story on a Saturday morning, they don't really want you to notice.”
— Fawn Johnson (@fawnjohnson) September 6, 2014
Yeah, I think people are onto that strategy in this administration.