WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Speaker John Boehner and House Republican inaction on immigration reform has been an invitation for President Obama to take executive action on the matter, Democrats argued Thursday.
Since the Speaker has not brought immigration reform to the floor, he “invites, clearly, the actions of the executive branch to try to do that which the Congress seems to be incapable of doing,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez argued at a gathering of House and Senate Democrats marking the year anniversary of the passage of the Senate immigration reform bill.
Boehner and House Republicans have balked at the idea of immigration reform this year, saying they do not trust Obama to enforce any law they pass.
According to the Democratic lawmakers and the Obama administration, however, there is one month left for the House to take action on immigration reform.
“A year has gone by. I don’t know how much more time he thinks he needs. But I hope that Speaker Boehner will speak up today, and if he does not, the President will borrow the power that is needed to solve the problems of immigration – and he shouldn’t be sued as a result of it,” Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) said.
This week Boehner revealed he is currently planning a lawsuit over the president’s executive actions. The Speaker said Wednesday that he has not decided yet over which actions he will sue.
“What we’ve seen, clearly over the last five years, is an effort to erode the power of the legislative branch,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday. “I believe the President is not faithfully executing the laws of our country, and on behalf of the institution and our Constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress.”
Thursday, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said that Boehner can preempt further executive action by bringing immigration reform to the floor.
“Well, Speaker Boehner has a very good antidote to what he fears: put a bill on the floor,” Schumer said.
“I mean, he’s, like, shooting his parents and then throwing himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. Pass a bill, and that won’t happen,” Schumer continued. “The president has no choice, and we’ve made it clear to our Republican colleagues both publicly and privately. If, if, if they don’t bring any bill to the floor, the president has no choice, on a humanitarian basis and on a policy basis, to act where he can on his own. Is it as good as a comprehensive bill? Not even close, but it’s better than nothing.”
Menendez added that the real “abuse” is that of Republican obstruction, preventing people from voting on immigration proposals.
“Here is the ‘abuse:’ The abuse is not giving the American people, by virtues of their representatives in the House of Representatives, an opportunity to cast a vote and declare a position on immigration reform. That’s the abuse. And the Speaker, who has the power to allow such a vote to take place or not, has been abusing that power by virtue of not giving the American people a shot,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
Wednesday Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told reporters that the Obama administration will soon make a “significant change in policy” if the House does not act in July. Hoyer offered Thursday that he asked House Majority Leader-elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Wednesday to bring immigration reform forward.
“America deserves the right to have its representatives vote on this critically important issue to our country,” he said.
Schumer also stressed that he sees the Tea Party as a primary factor hampering Republicans’ efforts on immigration reform.
“They’re afraid of the Tea Party, they’re afraid of the word amnesty – even though our bill is not amnesty at all. But Rush Limbaugh says it enough, and they’re afraid that their primary voters, who skew far right, believe it,” Schumer said, claiming Republicans are taking their cue on immigration from anti-amnesty Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King (R-IA).
He added that if House Republicans do not allow immigration reform to move forward, they will lose the House, Senate, and Presidency in 2016, “and we will write our own bill in 2017, and it will be a bill less to their liking.”