Republicans in Congress are in a bind over the president’s executive orders on immigration. Having picked a fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security so as to prevent the implementation of those orders, the GOP in Congress is finding that they have few allies in this fight that could lead to a “shutdown” of the agency responsible for the maintenance of national security.
The Washington Examiner’s Eddie Scarry observed on Thursday that many of the nation’s major editorial boards have called on the GOP to pass a clean bill that restores funding to DHS and avoids a fight over immigration reform. Today, The Wall Street Journal’s center-right editorial board made the same recommendation.
The Journal, however, noted that the GOP should stage a tactical retreat on this fight not because it is a losing one per se, but because they have received a lifeline in the form of a court-ordered injunction. That order could prevent the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA).
“[Texas federal court Judge Andrew] Hanen’s decision is an airlift for Republicans in Congress if they have the wit to accept the relief,” The Journal’s editorial board noted. “Immigration hardliners are attempting to defund Mr. Obama’s order but lack a legislative strategy whose end-game isn’t shutting down all of DHS. If the injunction is sustained on appeal, the President’s unilateralism will be a dead letter until the case is resolved, which should persuade the GOP’s deportation caucus to stand down before another self-defeating flameout.”
Those conservatives who believed that congressional Republicans were always looking for a way out of the fight they picked over immigration are unlikely to be satisfied if the GOP takes the off-ramp provided by this court ruling. Many believe, and not without cause, that there is no hill that Republican leaders in the Congress are willing to die on in defense of conservative causes. The Journal’s decision to tar those Republican members concerned over the legalization of illegal immigrant residents with the pejorative moniker “deportation caucus” is a provocation that will only foster resentment between the GOP’s pugnacious and pragmatic elements.
The Journal is not wrong, however, to observe that this ruling has put the administration in a bind. The White House originally greeted this court injunction with blusterous statements reinforcing their belief in the righteousness of their actions. But that self-assurance is not evidenced by the administration’s actions.
According to The New York Times, the administration is unsure of how to appeal this ruling:
“A top administration official said Wednesday it was unclear whether the Department of Justice would seek an emergency order that would allow the president’s immigration programs to go into effect while an appeal proceeds,” The Times reported. “A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said that no decision had been made on an emergency application to an appeals court, but she pledged to fight all challenges to the president’s actions.”
Regardless of which side prevails, the Texas ruling did show how deft Mr. Obama’s adversaries had become in their efforts to delay — if not derail — a program that immigration advocates have been intensely clamoring for.
In the meantime, the clock on Mr. Obama’s presidency is ticking.
Monday’s ruling from Judge Hanen had none of the hallmarks of a legal blockbuster. Its language did not appear to be aimed at reshaping the power of the presidency or changing the constitutional framework for future occupants of the Oval Office. Indeed, the judge acknowledged vast presidential power in his ruling.
Instead, Judge Hanen wrote, Mr. Obama had gone astray by failing to seek public comment before implementing the program. That, the judge said, probably violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which lays out the steps that must be completed before some changes in federal agencies’ policies can go into force.
The administration hopes that this injunction is prevented with a stay issued by a higher court, but if that does not materialize it is unclear what the White House’s strategy will be. If Republicans have been put in a difficult position by the president’s executive actions on immigration culminating in DAPA, it seems as though Democrats are not enjoying many benefits either.