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When President Obama announced yesterday that he was easing rules for foreign high-skilled workers, Sen. Chuck Grassley was one of the first to register his displeasure. As he griped on the Senate floor:
The Obama administration claims it wants immigration reform, but they can’t wait for Congress. They act on their own. What’s next? Will the president unilaterally legalize the undocumented population because he can’t have his way with Congress?
But as Lucia Graves at National Journal points out today, Senator Grassley’s opposition to executive action on immigration is a little inconsistent. He was for it before he was against it, in a case dating back to the Bush years. Is Grassley’s problem with executive action simply that Obama is not Bush — that a Democrat is now in the White House?
As the National Journal piece points out:
Grassley’s feeling that the president is overstepping his powers in revamping immigration policy via executive action is something of a change of heart. Back in June of 2008, when President George W. Bush used an executive order to require federal contractors participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system, Grassley was all for it.
Appearing on CNN’s with Lou Dobbs Tonight several days after the announcement in 2008, Grassley voiced his support for Bush’s action, saying ‘it’s so important that the president do that’ since Grassley would have put something similar in legislation of his own if the president hadn’t. ‘It’s quite a victory to get it done by executive,’ he said at the time….
The real difference then, was that Obama’s proposal uses executive authority to make life a little easier for foreign workers, and Bush was using it to do something Grassley agrees with. It would behoove Grassley to just say so.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
Get ready for more whiplash in the coming weeks. As Republicans continue to block immigration reform legislation, they are ceding the initiative to President Obama to take executive action. And when he does, keep this in mind as the hootin’ and a-hollerin’ grows louder: Senator Grassley loves executive action when George W. Bush does something big, like require all federal contractors to use the voluntary E-Verify system, but when President Obama makes a small move that allows a small number of spouses of immigrants in the permanent resident line to gain work permits, it’s something approaching a constitutional crisis. Such hypocrisy isn’t surprising, but it is rank.