BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — In exclusive interviews here, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) both called for Congress to cut off funding from President Barack Obama’s planned executive amnesty.
“I agree with that completely,” Vitter said when asked if he agrees with a plan incoming Senate Budget Committee chairman Jeff Sessions (R-AL) laid out for Breitbart News in an exclusive interview. Sessions says there are two pathways the GOP can take in the new Congress.
First Republicans—if they insist on a long-term omnibus spending bill in the lame duck to get the government through the 2015 fiscal year, which ends in September—could include language to block expenditure of tax dollars on Obama’s plans to grant work permits and other documents to illegal aliens. Second, Republicans could do a short-term funding bill so the government can pay its bills until January or February, when the new GOP Senate majority will be in office—and then defund the amnesty plans then.
“President Obama’s executive amnesty will require him to order immigration officers to abandon their statutory enforcement duties in order to process millions of amnesty applications. These applications, like DACA, will confer illegal immigrants with work permits, social security numbers and photo ID’s at great expense,” Sessions says. “All Congress has to do is prohibit the expenditure of funds for this unlawful purpose. Congress does this all the time – it’s how we prevented the President from closing Guantanamo Bay. Controlling all spending is the most basic and routine application of Congressional power.”
“I think a lot of other folks agree with that,” Vitter says. “With this threat of an unconstitutional executive amnesty, we can’t give away our main opportunity and leverage to block that. So either we put something in it now or we have a shorter-term bill.”
Cassidy, the GOP U.S. Senate candidate against incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in the upcoming Dec. 6 runoff, agrees that Republicans need to cut off the funding for Obama’s amnesty plans.
“We can fight over immigration but Congress should make immigration policy. Obviously, under Harry Reid’s Senate we’re at a disadvantage but come January we will have the ability to defund whatever aspect of it takes money,” Cassidy said in an interview with Breitbart News right after a GOP unity rally here. “That’s just one option and there will be others floated out there and I think we need to consider them all. What the president is doing is pushing the envelope on the Constitution and he had previously said that. It’s one more indictment of his presidency that he would do so even though he understands its implications.”
With regard to Sessions’ specific recommended plan of action, Cassidy said he hasn’t followed the ins-and-outs of the debate at this time—but he generally agrees with Sessions’ way of thinking.
“I generally like what Jeff Sessions says but I can tell you I have not thought about this yet,” Cassidy said. “I’m in full campaign mode—I am not measuring the drapes and I am not assuming I won and so this whole issue, give me a little more time to look at it after Dec. 6 but in general I like Jeff Sessions’ thoughts on how we approach immigration.”
During their Breitbart News interviews, Vitter and Cassidy also both backed another effort by Sessions and several other Senate Republicans to block Obama’s planned immigration orders. When Attorney General Eric Holder announced his forthcoming resignation a couple months ago, Sessions drew battle lines around the fight over a nominee to replace Holder—saying that no senator should vote for an Attorney General nominee who supports Obama’s planned executive amnesty.
Since Sessions made that call, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rand Paul (R-KY) all backed him up—as did incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Cassidy said he supports that, even though he suspects Democrats will try to push Loretta Lynch—the nominee to replace Holder—through in the lame duck.
“Obviously I will not vote on her [if she comes up in the lame duck session] but I like the idea,” Cassidy said. “If she’s opposed to upholding the Constitution and the president himself has previously said that this is unconstitutional, then she should uphold the Constitution. She should be beholden to the Constitution, not to Barack Obama.”
“This whole idea of an executive amnesty is so far beyond any president’s constitutional authority that it shouldn’t be even under debate. I mean, there is no reasonable theory under which he has this power. That would be contrary to plenty of statutes on the books. The president can’t act contrary to statute. He can fill in the blanks if statute needs to be implemented, but he can’t act contrary to statute. So I absolutely agree with all of them,” he adds.
In a story earlier this week, Politico laid out how the battle to confirm Lynch—and the expected GOP opposition to her—is lining up around immigration.
“Senate Republicans plan to turn the battle over attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch into a larger debate over immigration, using the confirmation hearings as a proxy war over presidential power rather than a debate over Lynch’s qualifications,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim wrote. “Lynch, who would be the first black female attorney general, is considered a strong nominee, with a long record as a federal prosecutor. That makes the political fight over Barack Obama and his executive powers a much better bet for Republicans who took control of the Senate riding the president’s unpopularity.”
Kim noted that given the “already truncated timeline” in the forthcoming lame duck congressional session, and the fact that outgoing Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Pat Leahy has other priorities for his last days with the gavel, it seems like Lynch’s confirmation fight is going to happen in the new Congress early next year.
Vitter, in his interview with Breitbart News, said Republicans nationwide now have a mandate to lead differently than the Democrats have.
“We need to prove two things at the same time, number one that we can govern, that we can solve our intra-party fights and number two that we can govern differently than the other side,” Vitter said. “We were elected this election to be different, not to be same-old, same-old. Not to go along to get along in Washington—but to make a clear difference.”
Cassidy agreed, adding that Republicans need to reverse many Obama-era policies that are hurting American workers.
“The federal government is crushing families. With the Obamacare premium, if you’re not getting a subsidy, you’re getting hammered. Some people’s premiums are going up an average of 80 percent. They’re passing these costs on to their employees, and reducing the number of hours they work or even laying them off,” Cassidy says.
Cassidy also framed fights over energy and financial sector regulations in the context of how Obama’s policies are hurting ordinary people.
“Many jobs in the fossil fuel and energy industry are on the bubble because of EPA, Department of Interior and Department of Energy decisions. The federal government is actively working against the interest of the American family. I’m speaking to bankers—they say because of Dodd-Frank regulations, they are no longer able to lend to lower-income families because they don’t meet the requirements of Dodd-Frank. These are people who always paid their bills. Again, the federal government is working against the American family. We need to rein that in,” Cassidy says.
Vitter added that he’s fairly confident Cassidy will beat Landrieu on Dec. 6, since Cassidy’s nearly 41 percent on Nov. 4 combined with the support from Tea Party-backed Col. Rob Maness—who got just under 14 percent of the vote—will be enough to send Landrieu’s 42 percent packing.
“None of us are going to take any of this for granted, but I feel great about Bill’s chances,” Vitter said. “He’s a strong conservative, he’s uniting everyone on our side as you can see today. And almost 60 percent of Louisiana voters voted to reject Mary Landrieu and her support of Barack Obama 97 percent of the time.”
Vitter said that Landrieu’s closeness with the massively unpopular President Obama is a “big deal.”
“That’s what this race is about, quite frankly,” Vitter said. “Mary Landrieu is completely out of step with Louisiana, supporting him 97 percent of the time. Louisianans, a huge majority, want a check and balance against President Obama not an ally to further his agenda.”
Cassidy, at the end of his interview with Breitbart News, fired a parting shot at the Landrieu-Obama ties.
“The people of Louisiana are going to put an exclamation point behind what the people elsewhere around the country have said: We reject the direction that Barack Obama has taken our country and Louisiana has a senator that represents that agenda, Sen. Mary Landrieu,” Cassidy said.