As expected, Barack Obama’s abuse of executive power to decree amnesty for some five million illegal aliens did not go over well with the people who actually have the Constitutional authority to write such laws. The video statement released by House Speaker John Boehner shortly before Obama’s address used Obama’s old words against him: “Instead of working together to fix our broken immigration system, the president says he???s acting on his own. That???s just not how our democracy works… The president has said before that ???he???s not king??? and he???s ???not an emperor,??? but he???s sure acting like one. And he???s doing it a time when the American people want nothing more than for us to work together.”
Several other Republicans used Obama’s old language about kings and emperors in their denunciations, making one long for a media honest enough to remind its readers and viewers that Obama himself declared the action he just took to be dictatorial, over two dozen times over the course of his presidency, and his critics are merely borrowing his own words. Alas, we do not have such a media.
Boehner’s mood had not improved after the Emperor’s address: “By ignoring the will of the American people, President Obama has cemented his legacy of lawlessness and squandered what little credibility he had left. His ‘my way or the highway’ approach makes it harder to build the trust with the American people that is necessary to get things done on behalf of the country. Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office.”
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also referred to Obama’s now-obsolete speeches, in remarks summarized by CNN:
“We’re considering a variety of options,” said McConnell, who will take over as Senate majority leader in the January when GOP-control of both houses of Congress begins. “But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Republicans are furious Obama is going around them and have already sternly warned doing so could wreck relations between the Capitol and the White House for the next two years.
“It seems to be about what a political party thinks makes good politics,” McConnell said. “It seems to be about what a President thinks would be good for his legacy. These are not the motivations that should be driving such sweeping action. And I think the President will come to regret the chapter history writes if he does move forward.”
In his speech, McConnell quoted Obama from last year saying he could not act unilaterally on the issue. Executive action was “was not an option” the President had said. And the “path to get this done” is “through the Congress.”
“Imposing his will unilaterally may seem tempting. It may serve him politically in the short term. But he know that it will make an already broken system even more broken,” McConnell said as his speech concluded. “And he knows that his is not how democracy is supposed to work. He told us so himself.”
It remains to be seen what sort of action the new Senate will take. It’s all well and good to denounce Obama’s offenses against the Constitution, but the despot’s calculation is that no one can, or will, do anything effective to stop him, and he’ll never have to answer to voters again Boehner, McConnell, and other congressional leaders are saying the right things, but they’re courting disaster if they don’t back up those words with deeds.
One excellent suggestion comes from DrewM at the Ace of Spades Blog: as an opening gesture of resistance, Congress could decline to invite the Emperor to give a State of the Union address. That is a job for presidents, and if Obama no longer wishes to be one, then he can round up his preferred audience of teenagers and non-citizens to hear him prattle about what a great job he’s doing. Unlike Obama’s power grab, scuttling the SOTU is entirely within the lawful powers of congressional leadership. They don’t have to stage a glitzy political event for Obama, and cancelling it would drive home the point that we are indeed sinking into a constitutional crisis. Plus, who outside of pundits and Beltway courtiers would really miss it? One less Obama speech would be viewed as a mercy by most of the public.
Another source of potential resistance comes from governors, who would have standing to sue the President for inflicting harm on their states. Both outgoing Texas Governor Rick Perry and his successor, Greg Abbott, have discussed the possibility of filing such a suit, as have Governors Mike Pence of Indiana and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Not inconsequentially, Perry and Walker have obvious presidential ambitions, and Pence is said to be mulling a run as well. Given that executive gutting of duly-enacted immigration law is an unquestionable failure of the federal government’s responsibility to the states, and the states can show measurable harm inflicted by this dereliction of duty, such lawsuits seem plausible, if not guaranteed to succeed.
“This guy went from the audacity of hope to the audacity of the power play,” Governor Walker said on the Laura Ingraham radio show Friday. “Two weeks after, in his own words, his policies were on the ballot and they were resoundingly defeated, instead of doing what any normal person would do which is to back off and figure out a way to work with the new Senate majority, newly grown House majority, instead he???s doubled down and gone the opposite way, and I think really put in place a legal crisis at a minimum, and a constitutional crisis in terms of the separation of powers.”
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has already filed a suit against Obama’s amnesty orders, citing “increased release of criminal aliens back onto streets of Maricopa County, Arizona, and the rest of the nation.”
That’s no surprise to anyone familiar with Sheriff Arpaio’s history of battling the Administration over immigration, but it’s not just him. Sacramento, California Sheriff Scott Jones also uploaded a YouTube video this week, warning President Obama that his efforts to mangle the immigration system are making things tough for law enforcement… something Jones knows all too well, having recently lost one of his deputies to an illegal alien gunman with a long criminal history, including multiple deportations.
“The problem I have is I can???t tell which ones are good and which ones are evil, and neither can you,” Sheriff Jones told Obama. “By their very definition they are undocumented… Untracked, untraced and unaccounted for, there is no way to know which of the 12 million undocumented persons in this country are good or bad.” Jones said he supported comprehensive immigration reform, but not executive amnesty, which he said is “not reform, it’s simply giving up.”
The Media Research Center quotes several other sheriffs from around the country expressing similar resistance to amnesty. “In my opinion, based on what I???ve seen, every county in America will become a border county,” said Sheriff Chuck Jenkins of Maryland. “This is absolutely going to worsen the crisis. What we???re going to see is not only the cost to healthcare, social programs, and education, but the increase in criminals coming into our country, you???re going to see increases in crime, infiltration from transnational gangs, the drug trade and human tracking.”
Sheriff Tom Hodgson makes the chilling point that Obama’s amnesty plans will only make the pool of untraceable illegal aliens in the U.S. deeper, especially after the next wave of amnesty-seekers crosses the border, providing cover for dangerous criminals: “Every predator who is out to commit crimes is looking for the weakest link in our system. Having large illegal immigrant populations creates a safe haven for criminal activity. Criminals are becoming more emboldened.”
Republican Attorneys General also sound like they’re ready to put up a fight. It remains to be seen whether any Democrat Attorneys General take their oaths to defend the Constitution seriously, but the Republican Attorneys General Association released a statement signed by 19 sitting and newly-elected AGs, including RAGA chairwoman Pam Bondi of Florida, expressing their determination to “take whatever actions may be appropriate to uphold the rule of law”:
Along with many of our fellow Americans, Republican Attorneys General listened carefully to President Obama???s remarks about his intended, unilateral actions regarding immigration. We agree with the President, ???people who live in this country should play by the rules.??? The American people also believe the President should play by the rules and respect the rule of law. The President cannot ignore the American people, the states or an entire branch of government.
Our country???s unique strength derives from its history of immigration. The values of immigrants are the values of our Republican Party, those of freedom, optimism, self-reliance, family and respect for the rule of law. We want our immigration laws to be enforced and our borders to be secure. We also want our country to be welcoming to those who want to join us on this American journey in the manner established by our laws.
As our states??? lead attorneys, however, we are committed to the rule of law and ensuring that we remain a nation of laws, enacted as prescribed by our Constitution. Each president takes an oath to ???faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and ??? to the best of [his] Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.??? We expect President Obama to fulfill this oath. As attorneys general we will uphold our constitutional oath to take whatever actions may be appropriate to uphold the rule of law.
If this becomes a strictly partisan affair, it would be wise for the voters of states with Democrat AGs to consider the wisdom of entrusting such responsibility to those who place politics and loyalty to a Party leader over their dedication to the rule of law. There will be a lot of fallout from this amnesty battle. It might very well include Democrats in law enforcement who have to explain why they stood silent in the face of executive actions that visited predictable lawlessness upon their states.
Update: Looks like we’ve got our first major crack in the partisan wall around Obama, as Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) issues a formal statement against the imperial decree:
Our immigration system is broken, and I support a comprehensive plan to fix it, but executive orders aren???t the way to do it. The system can only be truly fixed through legislation by Congress. The Senate???s comprehensive plan got overwhelming bipartisan approval, and Republicans in the U.S. House have sat on their hands for a year-and-a-half, refusing to even consider that bill. They should quit stalling, get to work, and do their jobs???debate the comprehensive plan that passed the Senate with a two-thirds margin.
I guess it would be asking too much for her to explain why Democrats didn’t do anything about this alleged crisis when they had total power in Washington for two years, but hey, at least she’s standing up for the rule of law. In this moment, that counts for something.