President Obama Delays Immigration Executive Actions, Right and Left Charge Opportunism
Over the weekend, the White House informed the public that President Barack Obama would delay the long-anticipated Executive actions on immigration reform. Back in June, the President declared he would act unilaterally on immigration reform if Congress did not pass a bill on the matter by the end of summer. Executive actions are now expected at the end of the year—after the midterm elections, where the Democrats could lose control of the Senate.
Speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday, the President said he wanted “to make sure that the T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted”. He also said that following the media attention on the unaccompanied minors on the southern border, more public education was necessary. “But it’s going to be more sustainable and more effective if the public understands what the facts are on immigration, what we’ve done on unaccompanied children, and why it’s necessary.”
The President’s assurances about the reason for the delay were widely panned. Most commentators have focused on the electoral ramifications of immigration Executive actions, since many think unilateral movement on the issue would have further endangered a number of incumbent Democratic Senators. On Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked the President, “What do you tell the person that’s going to get deported before the election that this decision was essentially made in your hopes of saving a Democratic Senate?” Frank Sharry, the executive director of the immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice issued a withering statement, saying, “We are bitterly disappointed in the President and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats. We advocates didn’t make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it. The President and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people; the status quo over solving real problems.”
Republicans have criticized the Administration’s decision as well, both for its apparent self-interest and because the President still intends to take unilateral action, which they argue is unconstitutional. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, “What’s so cynical about today’s immigration announcement is that the president isn’t saying he’ll follow the law, he’s just saying he’ll go around the law once it’s too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections”. Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement saying, “There is a never a ‘right’ time for the president to declare amnesty by executive action, but the decision to simply delay this deeply-controversial and possibly unconstitutional unilateral action until after the election—instead of abandoning the idea altogether—smacks of raw politics. The American people deserve honesty, transparency, and accountability—and any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve.”
Congress Is Back In Session—What’s on the Agenda?
Congress is back in Washington today after its five-week August recess, and it will be a mad dash before they head off again at the end of the month for campaign season. Despite the short session, there are a few very important measures that must pass. One of these includes a continuing resolution, a temporary spending measure that would keep the government funded through the beginning of the fiscal year, which starts on October 1. Additionally Congress will face the question of whether to reauthorize the charter of the Export-Import Bank, which facilitates the sale of American good abroad by assisting with financing for both citizens and foreigners. Some conservatives have criticized the institution, whose charter is set to expire at the end of the month, as a form of “corporate welfare”, but other Republicans support it since they say small businesses would be adversely affected by its dissolution. Although it is not clear how this will be resolved, Billy House and Mike Catalini of National Journal have suggested that a six-month extension could be appended to a continuing resolution. Finally, the public will also learn the answer to a major foreign policy question this September: How will Congress respond to the threat posed by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, or ISIS or ISIL)? Following the group’s advances, attacks on Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, and its execution of two American journalists, Members of Congress repeatedly called for and American response. However, the Obama Administration has not unconditionally pledged that they would request congressional authorization. Moreover, some analysts have wondered whether Members of Congress actually even want to vote on the response. On Meet the Press this weekend, President Obama said that he would meet with congressional leaders on Tuesday and then publicly lay out a plan on Wednesday, so there may be greater clarity on what part Congress will play in America’s response to IS.
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