President Obama plans as early as next week, according to members of his administration, to disregard protests and threats made by Republicans and move to mend the program that enforces immigration for the United States. The sweeping changes are expected to provide protection for an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants, by allowing them to obtain work permits. By having work permits, these immigrants are protected against the chance of deportation.
While President Obama plans an overhaul to the current immigration system, there are proposed limitations as to who will receive protections from the changes to the system. The immigration agency should continue to keep its sights on criminals as a target for deportation along with those who are serial immigration offenders. Additionally, the president plans to strengthen the security of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The president’s actions have the Republicans united to fight his plan but divided regarding what is the best course of action to take now for handling Obama since he was warned against taking executive action on immigration reform and his plans to do so have been announced. One element of the Republican Party that considers the president’s actions executive amnesty, wants to use its newly elected power to oppose it by vying for gradual changes to the law during the upcoming months. The other constituent of the party – those who have become the loudest and proudest for the conservatives – envision shutting down the government until the president concedes.
President Obama received three threats by the leaders of the forthcoming congress demanding that he refrain from taking independent action with respect to immigration reform. Two of the threats were by Speaker of the House, John Boehner. One threat stated that any such unilateral action on immigration reform would “poison the well”. Boehner also said, “When you play with matches, you run the risk of burning yourself.” Current Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, also made a blatant threat to the President to renounce from any executive action on immigration reform. He stated for the president to do so would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Yet after the mid-term Republican victories, Mitch McConnell appeared initially to be a bit more conciliatory towards the president with a less harsh tone. At a press conference the Wednesday following the election, McConnell made a statement that there are a variety of issues he wants to work with the president on. He cited, for example, tax reform and international trade agreements. Furthermore, the Senate Minority Leader made a promise there would be no government shutdowns or debt defaults while he is the leader. McConnell admitted to having an interest in looking for areas where he and the president could find agreement and work together. He agreed there were probably some. “The American people have spoken; they’ve given us divided government. The question for both the president and the speaker and myself is, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ McConnell said.
These opposing Republican agendas put the party on public stage and give them an opportunity to show whether they can govern as well as put pressure on both leaders (Boehner and McConnell) to get something done on behalf of those who voted them into power to be active participants. During this lame duck session, The House and Senate are required to fund federal agencies that will be out of money by the middle of December. The conservatives on the House side are trying to coax Speaker Boehner into incorporating language into the spending bill that would restrict funds for federal agencies that would grant new green cards or visas. However, Republican House Appropriations Chairman, Hal Rogers of Kentucky, is working to stall that effort. As he clearly stated his opposition to President Obama’s action by saying, “There’s no one stronger than me against unilateral action by the president on this subject, however it’s been said before – don’t take a hostage you can’t shoot,”
Chairman Rogers, in essence, is concerned that if Speaker Boehner drafts language into a spending bill that blocks money for federal agencies to issue new green cards or visas, that could lead to a government shutdown, which really isn’t in the political best interest of the Republicans.
On the other hand, Speaker Boehner told his members Thursday that one of his main concerns is to use every available means at his disposal to prevent President Obama from avoiding congress in order to move forward on immigration. He stopped short, however, just as Sen. McConnell, when it came to the issue of a government shutdown. That is one means at his disposal that he made clear he is not interested in using; he warned his members to be smart about how they respond and proceed with a vote.
As the Republicans have aspects of their strategy in place, they are still working from a strategic disadvantage because operationally they don’t know everything President Obama is up to. That complicates the Republicans’ efforts because they don’t know President Obama’s timeline with anything. Assuming the House Republicans have the votes to pass what they wish as part of their spending bill, the Democratic controlled Senate would block it, or it would be vetoed by President Obama, which fast-forwards the clock prior to the government depleting all its financial resources on Dec. 11th.
Another Republic strategy to stonewall President Obama is to pass a short-term spending bill of just a few weeks. This avoids a government shutdown and allows them additional time to figure out a response to the president after his plan is officially rolled-out by year’s end.
Yet an additional strategy to be used by the Republicans, if necessary, is to increase the scope of the current lawsuit they have approved against President Obama that disputes his lawful authority to enact the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While the vote to sue was in July 2014, no legal paperwork has yet to be filed with the courts.
With the amount of plans and strategies in place, it appears plausible that the Republicans are poised for a significant face-off with President Obama over his decision to make a way for millions of undocumented individuals to remain in the United States and receive the ability to work.
By Terita Smith
Photo by Cohen Fritz – Flickr License