WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi argues President Barack Obama has ample authority to take executive actions as many presidents before him have done, including President Abraham Lincoln.
“Does the public know the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?” Pelosi asked reporters Thursday. “People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country, Congress catching up, and in the case of Ronald Reagan, improving what Congress has done.”
Obama is poised to announce his long-anticipated executive actions on immigration Thursday night. Reports indicate he will move to grant legal status to about five million illegal immigrants. Friday, Obama will appear in Nevada to argue further for his plan.
Pelosi–who said she would be joining Obama Friday in the Sagebrush State–argued that the President’s imminent announcement will be about “securing the border, holding undocumented immigrants accountable, and again reassuring everyone, making sure everyone plays by the rules, pays taxes, and the rest.”
“This is pretty exciting. It’s bold. It’s courageous. It’s as good as it can be under the law,” she said, adding that she would still prefer an immigration bill to the executive actions.
Democrats have been arguing that Obama’s actions are not outside of the realm of his authority. They, including Pelosi, have been pointing to the executive actions on immigration of previous presidents–including Ronald Reagan–as proof of precedent.
“As I’ve said to you before, the President has great authority in the law and great precedent of so many presidents, from Eisenhower on, just to go in that span of time. Every president has moved to protect people in this country,” she said.
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-KY), who appeared with Pelosi and other newly elected ranking committee members Thursday at the Democratic leader’s weekly press availability, added that the reason people are upset over the President’s expected actions is because “it’s Obama.”
“Republicans are saying they had an election, but the country had an election. And Obama was elected with great numbers, giving him the right to run the country,” she said. “But if he can’t get any help to do that, he has this other avenue that he and many presidents–many of them three times more executive orders than he’s ever signed. And it’s perfectly legitimate.”
Pelosi argued that House Republicans have had ample time to move on immigration reform but did “nothing,” and she said that GOP claims that the executive order will make them less likely to work with Democrats and the President on immigration reform are simply “an excuse” not to cooperate with Democrats.
“Really this is a dereliction of duty not to address the broken immigration system in our country and what it does to our economy, first and foremost to our families,” she said.
Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), on the other hand, predicted that Obama’s executive action would actually move Republicans to act.
“This will bring the Republicans to act and bring a bill to the floor that is comprehensive and will address some of the other issues that are not addressed in the executive order,” Velazquez said.