President Obama and Senate Democrats have effectively given House Republicans until July 31 to act on immigration reform, or else Obama will take unilateral executive action to ease deportations.
That’s only five weeks away, and it’s not yet clear if the House GOP leadership will respond to the challenge. Perhaps the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the subsequent leadership shuffle has distracted them, but they will turn to it shortly. Or perhaps they are reading Obama’s low approval numbers, and sensing lame duck status, they are not threatened by the threat.
If it’s the latter, Republicans are being short-sighted. As I explain in Real Clear Politics today:
NBC’s Chuck Todd, [noting] that 54 percent of Americans “no longer feel that he is able to lead the country and get the job done,” told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “Essentially the public is saying, ‘Your presidency is over.’” … But one morsel from the NBC/WSJ poll didn’t fit that narrative: 67 percent of respondents are in favor of the president’s newly announced regulations “to set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.” … That’s a hell of a lot of support for a major presidential initiative from an electorate supposedly no longer listening to the president…
…the president has [also] successfully used the bully pulpit to advance another major goal: raising the minimum wage. Anticipating obstinacy from House Republicans, he told the states during his January 2014 State of the Union address, “You don’t have to wait for Congress to act.” … So far this year, eight states have raised their minimums and later this week Massachusetts will make it nine. Others may follow suit as more than 30 state legislatures have been compelled to consider minimum wage measures, and activists in eight states are pursuing November referendums. As with climate, this is not the kind of impact a president makes if the public has “stopped listening.”…
…If I were a Republican, I would not be savoring Obama’s 41 percent approval rating and presuming his presidency was done. I would be worried about my party’s 29 percent approval rating, its 15 percent level of support among Latinos and Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration reform if House Republicans don’t act by July 31. If you think Obama isn’t able to lead on immigration, after what he has done on climate and minimum wage, you haven’t been paying attention.
Meanwhile, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post notes that the GOP is busy painting itself into a corner by taking cheap shots at the White House over the recent problems with minors illegally entering the country:
… the Republican position is that the crisis is happening because the currently-arriving kids aren’t being deported immediately and because of Obama’s failure to secure the border and “enforce the law,” which has become shorthand for criticizing Obama’s decision to de-prioritize the deportation of DREAMers and other low-level offenders from the interior, and instead focusing resources on deportations from the border. But this raises two questions for GOP lawmakers: 1) If you believe that Obama’s current enforcement priorities are to blame for the current crisis, are you saying that we should deport all of the DREAMers? 2) If you believe the failure to deport unaccompanied minors immediately is to blame for encouraging the surge, are you saying that we should change the law to do away with the requirement that these kids get to present their case in court?
The only argument Republicans will have in the face of an executive order is a complaint that he’s not deporting more people, including children. I would say that would hurt them with Latinos, but already the GOP has only 15% Latino support, so they can’t go much lower.
Remember, support for legalizing the undocumented is strong. If the House refuses to act, and Obama moves to keep families together, all the GOP will have accomplished is handing Obama another opportunity to lead.
Obama is not on the ballot in 2014 or 2016. His overall approval rating matters little. What matters is how he leads, and how Republicans respond, issue-by-issue. On immigration, he retains the upper hand. Republicans have five weeks to accept or ignore that reality.