Friday, November 14, 2014

Obama v. Congress on Immigration

On immigration, President Obama and congressional Republicans have hit head on immediately, after all the talk of bipartisanship that no one actually believed. From the Washington Post:

Congressional Republicans said Friday they are considering a series of showdowns over funding the government if President Obama goes ahead with his expected plans to unilaterally overhaul the nation’s immigration system. 
Instead of passing a spending bill in coming days that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year, they are now mulling a short-term measure that expires early next year, according to more than a dozen top lawmakers and their aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

These are signals. Whether or not Republicans will actually go through with a showdown over immigration is another story. Messing with government functioning is broadly unpopular and the last time it hurt Republicans more, so this is clearly a risk.

I don't see much risk for Obama. For several years, conservatives have criticized him for not securing the border, while his base criticized him for not pushing anything through. I don't think the conservative base can dislike Obama any more than they already do, so he has almost nothing to lose. The strategic upside is bringing back the people who chose not to vote in the midterm elections because they felt he was all talk and no walk. He can also claim that he's taking these actions because Congress refuses to pass legislation.

An interesting question is whether it would've been a good idea to do this before the elections. Instead, he used the rationale that pushing immigration would hurt candidates in tough races. Those candidates lost anyway, and perhaps might've fared better had his inaction not annoyed people who might actually have voted.


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