President Barack Obama is looking for the fight of his presidency when unveils on Thursday evening, Nov. 20, 2014 at 8 PM in his 11th speech to the nation his plans for immigration reform and amnesty for nearly five million illegal immigrants through executive actions. Republican leadership in Congress are promising Obama they will battle him, and they will do everything to block his actions, which they deem as illegal and an unconstitutional overreach and abuse of presidential power. Meanwhile GOP governors have also promised to balk at the actions, and both criticized and questioned the President’s decision to move forward on them.
President Obama made the announcement with a video posted on the White House’s Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 19. Speaking in the Oval Office Obama explained; “What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do, with my lawful authority as president, to make the system work better – even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also made the announcement on a White House blog post on Thursday morning. Earnest wrote; “Our immigration system has been broken for decades — and every minute we fail to act, millions of people who live in the shadows but want to play by the rules and pay taxes have no way to live right by the law and contribute to our country. So tomorrow night, President Obama will address the nation to lay out the executive actions he’s taking to fix our broken immigration system.”
Obama will announce a 10-point plan that will prevent the deportations for five million illegal immigrants, give them work permits, amnesty and boost border security. The plans would essentially extend the “deferred action,” program from 2012 called “The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program” (DACA) and apply specifically for parents of citizens or legal residents. These immigrants will be granted work permits, “Social Security numbers and government-issued IDs.” President Obama cannot create a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, only Congress can do that. What is within his confines is to prevent deportations, and he is pushing it to the limits, trying to expand his deferred action program as much as possible, and to give them work authorizations.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY promised on Thursday morning to the press that the GOP Congress will do everything to block his actions; “If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act. We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Immediately after Obama’s announcement was posted, Michael Steel who is Speaker of the House John Boehner’s, R-OH spokesman issued a statement. Steel’s statement emphasized Obama’s imperial presidency; “If Emperor Obama ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue — and many others.”
Obama’s executive amnesty has angered the GOP Congress, which just won control of the Senate with 53 seats in the Midterm Elections, and gained their largest majority in the House of Representative since 1929. There is talk and threats of a government shutdown over the 2015 budget, suing the president or even impeachment. Both McConnell and Boehner have promised there will be no government shutdown, and the chances of impeachment limited, but might be a good idea. Obama needs to be reminded that he is exceeding the powers of the presidency, and if he is not stopped, there no telling how far he will would go outside presidential constraints.
President Obama is taking Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.’s “Imperial Presidency” to new heights, on par with the plebiscitary presidencies of Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and some might argue of George W. Bush (2001-09), in whose presidency Schlesinger saw a resurgence of the Imperial Presidency. The imperial presidency was made possible through the expansion of presidential powers during wartimes, and the president then took advantage and used these powers for domestic policy. Schlesinger explained, “When the constitutional balance is upset in favor of presidential accountability, the presidency can be said to become imperial.” In the plebiscitary presidency, the president believes he is only accountable during elections or during an impeachment, where he should be accountable to Congress “daily.”
Schlesinger argued that in the plebiscitary presidency, the president relies heavily on executive actions to “govern” rather Congress passing bills, very much the path President Obama has been taking especially this past year to advance the economy. Schlesinger concluded that if a president chose to govern through “decree” rather than with Congress, he would need to “reined in” with impeachment. Schlesinger wrote; “A constitutional Presidency, as the great Presidents had shown, could be very strong Presidency indeed. But what kept a strong President constitutional, in addition to checks and balances incorporated within his own breast, was the vigilance of the nation. Neither impeachment nor repentance would make much difference if the people themselves had come to an unconscious acceptance of the imperial Presidency. The Constitution could not hold the nation to ideals it was determined to betray.”
American voters made it clear that do not support President Obama’s direction, policies and executive actions for the country. In fact, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found that 48 percent of Americans oppose Obama’s plans for executive actions, with only 38 percent approving. In general, however, Americans 60 percent support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, but with Congressional passed legislation.
Obama has only the support of the shrinking population of Congressional Democrats. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, who supports the executive actions clarified;”It (Obama’s executive action) does not and cannot give them green cards or put them on a path to citizenship. Only Congress can – and must – finish the job by overhauling and rewriting immigration law. I want to be clear – executive action is not a substitute for legislation.”
President Obama also had dinner with 18 Congressional Democratic leaders from the House and Senate at the White House on Wednesday evening, Nov. 19. The president will continue selling his immigration executive action in a speech on Friday, Nov. 21 at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, where he first unveiled his “comprehensive immigration plan,” back in 2013.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. She covers US, Canadian & Israeli politics, with a particular focus on the Obama presidency, Congress, domestic policy, and elections.