In today’s op-ed roundup, a number of columnists are pushing back against the ridiculous idea that Republicans could act on immigration reform if President Obama would only give them a chance. Remember: the GOP has had nearly two full years to pass legislation. The Senate did its job, and the Republican-controlled House could have followed at any time. But they didn’t. At this point, the only two outcomes are 1) Obama acts to protect immigrants already here, or 2) we’re stuck with the status quo (watch Diane Guerrero‘s video from yesterday for more on what life for immigrants today is like).
Check out Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast, where he hammers the part about Republicans having had the votes to pass reform this whole time. “So if it had the votes, why didn’t it come up for a vote? Well, because it had the votes! The Republicans simply can’t give Obama a victory of any sort.”
So here’s the reality. It’s been 16 months, nearly 500 days, since the Senate passed the bill. The House could have passed it on any one of those days. But Boehner and the Republicans refused, completely out of cowardice and to spite Obama. Insanely irresponsible. And on top of that, Boehner told Obama in June that he was not going to allow a vote on it all year. In other words, the Speaker told the President (both of whom knew the bill had the votes) that he was not only going to refuse to have a vote, but that he was going to let the Senate bill die.
And now, when Obama wants to try to do something about the issue that’s actually far, far more modest than the bill would have been, he’s the irresponsible one? It’s grounds for impeachment?
Eugene Robinson at Washington Post agrees. Obama is only acting now because Republicans have completely failed at their job:
All the melodramatic Republican outrage isn’t fooling anybody. The only reason President Obama has to act on immigration reform is that House Speaker John Boehner won’t.
I repeat: That’s the only reason. The issue could have been settled a year ago. It could be settled in an afternoon. The problem is that Boehner refuses to do his job, preferring instead to spend his time huffing and puffing in simulated indignation…
The president has not just the right but also the obligation to “use all the lawful authority that I possess,” as he promised last week in a long-deferred effort to repair an immigration system that both parties agree is broken. Law and precedent give Obama wide latitude, and at this point he can hardly be accused of acting rashly.
Instead of debating what kind of hissy fit they want to pitch, Boehner and his flock ought to be reading the Senate bill. They would find much to like.
Jamelle Bouie at Slate points out that if Republicans had tried to work with Democrats to pass immigration legislation in the House, they would’ve gotten a lot of what they wanted out of the process (even more border security, for example). It’s their complete unwillingness to compromise that has led to this point where Obama must act unilaterally.
Given the high priority for immigration reform, there’s no question Democrats could have worked with House Republicans to craft a counterpart to the Senate bill. And indeed, there’s a good chance they would have made even more concessions if it guaranteed a vote. As with health care, Republicans could have gotten more conservative policy than they otherwise will if they had backed down from their relentless opposition.
when it comes to the prospect of a new, more liberal immigration regime, Republicans have themselves to blame. With a few concessions, they could have gotten more enforcement and tighter security. Instead, we’ll have legal status for millions of immigrants, with few Republican fingerprints.
Steve Benen at MSNBC noted, as other articles have, that Obama would hardly be the first president to use extensive executive action on immigration. Every single president since Eisenhower has used that power — including Republican presidents like the two Bushes and Ronald Reagan. There was no outrage from Republicans on those earlier instances, so why are Republicans pitching a fit now?
It’s possible that today’s congressional Republicans have no idea that this history exists. It’s also possible they just don’t give a darn.But for those who take the debate seriously, these precedents matter. The fact that Obama appears likely to follow a trail that’s already been blazed flips the burden back to freaked-out lawmakers – if previous Congresses didn’t descend into madness as a result of executive actions on immigration, why should this Congress behave differently?