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As GOP goes right, Obama eyes big move on immigration

While Republicans embrace an anti-immigration agenda, the White House readies sweeping changes on its own.
A man hands out U.S. flags at a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens in Los Angeles
A man hands out U.S. flags at a naturalization ceremony for 3,703 new U.S. citizens from 130 countries, in Los Angeles, Calif. Dec. 17, 2013.
Last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), the chair of the House Republican Conference, chatted with Reason, a libertarian outlet, about developments on Capitol Hill. Of particular interest, the House GOP leader flatly denied that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has taken the lead on shaping Republican policy on immigration.
"He does not -- his position does not reflect the broad view of Republicans," McMorris Rodgers said in reference to King.
It was hard to take the argument seriously. Just a week prior, House Republicans ignored their own Speaker and rejected their own party's border bill, prompting GOP leaders to turn the entire issue over to the right-wing Iowan and his allies. King, arguably Congress' most vituperative opponent of immigration, boasted, "The changes brought into this are ones I've developed and advocated for over the past two years. It's like I ordered it off the menu."
If that was the turning point, Republicans are now stepping on the gas. Jonathan Weisman reports today that party officials "pressing for conciliation to attract Hispanic and immigrant votes" are obviously losing to their intra-party rivals.

"When you put Raúl Labrador, Steve King and Michele Bachmann together writing an immigration bill, there's damage done, no question," said Carlos Gutierrez, a commerce secretary under President George W. Bush who led the failed war room in 2007 trying to get a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws passed. [...] [O]n Capitol Hill, the Tea Party wing continues to drive the party's agenda.

It's against this backdrop that the National Republican Senatorial Committee hopes to use immigration reform to attack vulnerable Democratic incumbents, including Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mary Landrieu (La.) and Kay Hagan (N.C.).
"It's just another sign that even vulnerable Democrats like Landrieu, Begich, Hagan and Pryor are more loyal to Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama than they are to middle-class men and women struggling in their home states," said NRSC spokesperson Brad Dayspring, effectively arguing that supporting a popular, bipartisan immigration bill is some kind of betrayal -- despite its Republican backers and co-authors.
Is it any wonder the White House is prepared to go big without Congress?

As the Obama administration gets ready to unveil a potentially wide-ranging new policy on deportation relief, Democrats are making the case that there is political cover and precedent for him to go big. In a newly released memo, the Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge highlights 10 instances in which past presidents have used their authority to apply selective prosecution of immigration laws. More often than not, those instances targeted specific populations caught up in complex and dangerous foreign policy crises. But immigration lawyers sympathetic to the White House say that these actions still provide sound principle on which the current administration can act.

The report is online here (pdf). In the coming weeks, it's a safe bet this is going to be a very big deal.