It seems President Barack Obama is about to receive a pass on easing deportations for potentially millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Obama is under enormous pressure from pro-immigration activists to extend his administration's 2012 amnesty for "Dreamers" -- young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children -- to other settled undocumented immigrants. And Speaker John Boehner and his Republican conference are on the verge of making that less costly to the president.
Boehner and his Republican colleagues have been complaining about Obama's "lawlessness" for years. By golly, now the Speaker is going to do something about it -- sue the president. (For a review of the constitutional merits, read my colleague Cass Sunstein, whose concision is matched by his skepticism.)
While the grievances of House Republicans are broad, their legal complaint, legislation for which will be considered by the House Rules committee next week, will apparently be quite narrow. Here is the statement Boehner released yesterday:
In 2013, the president changed the health care law without a vote of Congress, effectively creating his own law by literally waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it. That's not the way our system of government was designed to work. No president should have the power to make laws on his or her own.
Never mind that hat tip to President Hillary Clinton in the penultimate word. Focus on the employer mandate. Against an administration that has executed Americans by drone strike and quietly collected mountains of data from private citizens, Boehner is taking a firm stand against an administrative delay in the imposition of the employer mandate section of the Affordable Care Act. The House majority will not stand for it.
The implication of that narrow focus, of course, is that there are a number of other things for which House Republicans will, in fact, stand. For example, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That's the name of the amnesty Obama issued by executive action in 2012. (Many Dreamers are currently applying for two-year renewals of their deferred action status.) By citing the employer mandate as the most egregious example of presidential overreach, Boehner's lawsuit implies that DACA was not such a big deal -- literally not worth suing over. As Brian Beutler explained this week in the New Republic, much Republican agitation over the lawless presidency has previously been targeted at DACA. Now, Boehner seems to be surrendering the point, shrinking from a confrontation likely to further alienate Hispanics from the Republican Party.
And if DACA, which shields hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from deportation, is not worth a legal complaint -- even one likely to be thrown out of court -- how awful could it be for the president to extend the exact same protections of DACA, in the exact same manner, to another class of undocumented immigrants, such as family members of Dreamers?
Here is more of Boehner's statement:
The current president believes he has the power to make his own laws - at times even boasting about it. He has said that if Congress won't make the laws he wants, he'll go ahead and make them himself, and in the case of the employer mandate in his health care law, that's exactly what he did. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Legislative Branch, and the Constitution, and that is exactly what we will do.
I'm not a constitutional scholar, but I believe what Boehner's saying might well be interpreted as: "Bienvenidos."
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Frank Wilkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org