We’re only about a month out from a midterm election that saw numerous Republicans campaign on a promise to reverse the direction of the country. While are many facets to that promise, one of them cannot be ignored. Republican leadership in both Congress and the RNC made it very clear that they would stop Obama’s amnesty from happening by using every means available to them. The new Republican-dominated Congress hasn’t yet taken seat, but already there are signs that this vow is soon to be broken.
One of the most outspoken Republicans on immigration, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, called out the party brass on Tuesday in a statement. “The Chairman of the Republican Party made a promise to America on executive amnesty: ‘We can’t allow it to happen and we won’t let it happen – everything we can do to stop it we will.”
Sessions went on to say that the current plans being promoted by Republicans in the House was inconsistent with that language. That plan, as it stands now, involves waiting until next year to get serious about defunding the president’s amnesty. As concocted by House Majority Leader John Boehner, the idea is to call for a “symbolic” vote to block the executive order with the expectation that it will be killed in the Democratic Senate. Boehner then wants to vote on a bill that will keep the government running through September and fund immigration agencies until the early months of 2015.
But conservatives in Congress, like Sessions, don’t like the sound of that one bit. The most popular plan being floated by the hardliners is a short-term budget that will prevent a shutdown, accompanied by language that defunds immigration agencies relevant to carrying out Obama’s amnesty action. Anything less, they say, would be tantamount to Republican approval of an unconstitutional move on the part of the president.
Senator David Vitter of Louisiana said that a bill lacking defund language would be a “slap in the face to the voters who sent a message last month by electing Republican majorities in Congress.”
The divide has put Boehner in the awkward position of seeking help from House Democrats instead of garnering support from within the Republican Party. At the same time, this isn’t the first time he’s found himself in such a position. As the gap between establishment Republicans and true conservatives grows wider, the prospect of a Republican-controlled Congress is starting to lose meaning.
This week, Boehner tried to have it both ways. He insisted that Obama’s executive action was a “serious breach of our Constitution,” but he softened that language by saying lawmakers “have limited options and abilities to deal with it directly.” What Boehner is really saying is that he doesn’t want to risk political capital by doing something that might backfire in the polls.
But this is beyond polls and beyond politics. Obama has exceeded his constitutional authority. He has enacted a plan that will spell certain doom for the economy. Republicans need to grow a backbone. If that means enduring a few months of difficult press coverage…well, what else is new?