Republicans seethed as D.C. braced for President Obama’s executive action on immigration, which aims to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.
House Speaker John Boehner directly addressed the American public via YouTube Thursday evening to accuse Obama of acting like a monarch.
“Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he’s acting on his own,” the senator said in the short video. “But that is just not how our democracy works. The president has said before that ‘he’s not king’ and he’s ‘not an emperor,’ but he sure is acting like one.”Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham also got in on the action Thursday with his own video slamming the president. “This is wrong. It’s irresponsible. It will do damage to our efforts to fix a broken immigration system. This is a tremendous presidential overreach,” Graham said. “I will try to defund the effort for him to go it alone. We will challenge him in court.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida claimed that the president’s action will make it harder for for immigrants “who are doing things the right way.” He said in statement on Thursday, ”We need immigration reform. But the right way to do it is to first bring illegal immigration under control by securing the borders and enforcing the laws, then modernizing our legal immigration system.”
Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also took to the Senate floor on Thursday morning to lash out. “Imposing his will unilaterally may seem tempting. It may serve him politically in the short term. But he knows that it will make an already-broken system even more broken, and he knows that this is not how democracy is supposed to work. Because he told us so himself,” McConnell said, referring to the president’s past statements saying that he couldn’t unilaterally rework immigration policies.
Republican Sen. Tom Coburn warned that the anticipated action could set off a firestorm of public opposition. “The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation. You’re going to see, hopefully not, but you could see instances of anarchy,” he told USA Today earlier. “You could see violence.”
“Let’s not poke fingers in eyes,” Coburn continued on Thursday’s “Morning Joe.”
The president will “take this Constitution, separate out article one, the legislative authority, tear that out. That’s what he’ll do that tonight at 8 o’clock,” Iowa’s staunchly anti-immigration advocate Rep. Steve King said. “Tear it out, probably fold it one time, and tuck it into his pocket, and say I’m also the legislative branch of government.”
King said Congress should use a resolution of censure to punish the president and called to defund the executive order, a tactic other conservatives have spoken favorably of. But the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Republican Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky says it isn’t possible. ”This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify” program,’” he said in a statement Thursday. “Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to ‘de-fund’ the agency.”
The chief complaint of conservatives is that the president is overhauling the immigration system unilaterally, but the White House says that isn’t what’s going on.
“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president, to make the system work better,” the president said in a video posted online on Wednesday.
On msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” White House Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri responded to criticism that the president would “tear up the Constitution” with the executive action.
“The president is right — he’s not king, he can’t just pick up the piece of legislation that the advocates and he were pushing for and implement that, so what he has done is asked the Justice Department what he can do legally,” she said. “It’s not any kind of permanent solution, so we’re certainly gonna need legislation.”
“It doesn’t tear up the Constitution,” Palmieri added.
In a press conference on Thursday, leading Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York said “Republicans shouldn’t get mad, they should get even. Nullify the president’s executive order by passing our bill,” he said, referring to the bipartisan immigration reform bill he and others negotiated. The president has said he’ll tear up the executive order as soon as Congress passes a comprehensive bill that takes care of immigration.
Still, Republicans are in uproar, with some even suggesting they’ll shut down the government over the order.
Asked by Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” if Republicans would shut down the government over immigration, a member of the party’s Senate leadership, South Dakota’s Sen. John Thune said “it doesn’t solve the problem, Chris, but look, we’re having those discussions.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, who championed the 2013 shutdown, wrote an Op-Ed encouraging members of his party to use the kind of tactics they employed in hopes of defunding Obamacare, which shut the government down for 16 days last year.
“Congress, representing the voice of the People, should use every tool available to prevent the President from subverting the rule of law,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed on Wednesday. “[T]he new Congress should exercise the power of the purse by passing individual appropriations bills authorizing critical functions of government and attaching riders to strip the authority from the president to grant amnesty.”
Not all Republicans are shutdown happy, however. Republican governors and 2016 hopefuls Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana both encouraged alternate approaches in interviews. They, along with other House and Senate leaders in the GOP, are reportedly looking for options that would help the party vent its frustration while keeping the government running.