Temper tantrum isn’t helping Republicans govern

by Kerry Drake
— November 25, 2014

Somebody wake me up when Republicans quit throwing a tantrum because President Barack Obama took action on immigration reform they refused to consider. The GOP’s collective whining is equal parts pathetic and boring.

Wyoming Campaign Finance
Kerry Drake

The criticism started before the president even issued his executive order last Thursday. Republican lawmakers rushed to the TV cameras to denounce him for action they described as unilateral, dangerous, unlawful, reckless and arrogant. His order made a mockery of the rule of law, they charged, and made it doubtful our nation could possibly survive this assault to our constitution.

Boy, did they lay it on thick. But that was just the beginning of their histrionics.

What would Republicans do about this executive order to allow about 4.4 million people to stay in this country instead of being deported because of their undocumented immigrant status? Plenty, they said, and variously threatened to withdraw funds to implement the order, kill every item on the Democrats’ agenda, sue the president, shut down the government, refuse to increase the debt ceiling and, maybe, if they stayed mad enough, impeach the president.

But the most important thing the GOP wanted Americans to know is that this power-mad dictator killed any chance that meaningful, bipartisan immigration reform would ever pass this Congress, because now Republicans will never cooperate on anything with this president again.

At that point, more than 300 million Americans should have slapped their knees and rolled on the ground, laughing hysterically.

Because if there’s one thing everyone in this country has known for the past six years, it’s that Republicans in Congress will automatically obstruct everything Obama tries to do, even if that stance goes against every principle they possess.

Passing immigration reform was a dead issue as soon as the president proposed it, and it was never going to see the light of day in the U.S. House as long as he occupied the Oval Office. Let’s not pretend putting immigration on hold so the other side could debate it was ever a serious consideration for Obama, who finally seems to have learned to stop beating his head against the wall trying to work with Republicans who hate him.

Another howler was the claim by many Republicans — including Wyoming’s Sen. John Barrasso — that Obama just doesn’t seem to understand he got shellacked in the Nov. 4 election, so now he has to get out of the way and let Republicans rule.

Yes, it was an impressive victory for the GOP, which took over the Senate. But let’s not forget Obama’s win in 2008 was a sign voters were sick of Republican leadership, and the party’s response was to plot the new president’s total political demise before he was even inaugurated. When he won re-election, his opponents went apoplectic.

Now, at least theoretically, voters want to see what Republicans do with control of Congress. It’s been so long since they’ve had to actually govern they may have forgotten how — and they’re not going to get any help from the Tea Partiers in their camp, whose only purpose seems to be ending the federal government as we know it.

Some of the claims in the wake of Obama’s executive order are funny, until you realize these people are serious. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went on an unbelievable rant.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” he said. “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”

Yes, we haven’t seen violence and anarchy to this extent since Obama had the audacity to get health insurance for 10 million more Americans, and get rid of pre-existing conditions. Wait a minute — that display of outrage wasn’t out on the streets, but in congressional town hall meetings, where the Koch brothers bused in loads of Tea Party dissenters to show how angry real, patriotic Americans supposedly were.

Coburn is a native of Casper, but let’s not claim him as one of our own, OK? Unfortunately, Wyoming’s all-GOP congressional delegation had plenty of anti-Obama rhetoric to share, and they are speaking on behalf of us all. A majority of Wyomingites may believe they’re doing a fine job, but that doesn’t keep the one-third of the rest of us from being perplexed and/or embarrassed by their comments.

“By circumventing Congress on immigration and instituting his will through executive actions, President Obama is eroding the very foundation of our country and form of government,” Sen. Mike Enzi said. “This sets a dangerous precedent where future presidents can flout any law they happen to disagree with and alter the law without going through Congress.”

But Enzi and other Republicans conveniently fail to mention both GOP Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush signed executive orders on immigration, and our government did not collapse.

Enzi is in a battle for the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), a right-winger who is difficult to out-do. But Enzi is giving it the ol’ Wyoming try, throwing in plenty of unrelated things to hate about the feds. 

“We’ve seen the damage done over the past six years because of Obamacare and rogue agencies like the IRS and EPA,” Enzi said. “I will continue to fight executive overreach, including amnesty by executive order, whether by targeting rampant, unaccountable federal spending, working to reverse illegal executive orders with legitimate federal laws, or using the Congressional Review Act to reject the president’s actions.” 

Barrasso claimed Obama’s executive order “flies in the face of his promises to follow the law, deliver ‘fairness’ and help jobless Americans. … [Obama’s] reckless and unlawful decision makes it even harder for Washington to solve our immigration challenges.”

Barrasso’s charge runs counter to expert, independent analysis about how the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill — the one House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuses to allow a vote on — would positively impact the nation and Wyoming.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates the measure, which was supported by 14 Republican senators, would increase the size of the economy by $1.4 trillion by 2033 and also reduce the deficit.

 Providing millions of people a pathway to earned citizenship and expanding high- and low-skilled visa programs would increase total personal income for Wyoming families by $47 million in 2020, according to Regional Economic Models, a Mass.-based private economic forecasting company.

Those numbers are apparently not good enough for Wyoming Rep. Cynthia Lummis, who opposes the Senate bill. She told the Casper Star-Tribune it “ignores border security.”

The bipartisan bill would add 20,000 more border patrol agents and nearly 700 miles of new fencing. Does that sound like border security is being ignored? The number of agents and total deportations have both risen dramatically since George W. Bush left office and Obama took over.

I am amazed at how many normally rational political pundits of all stripes have bought the Republican line that Obama’s executive order was a monstrous affront to everything our government stands for. Even some of those who thought it was the right action to take criticized the president for doing it before allowing the House to have its say.

Are you kidding me? The House had its say when it refused to bring the Senate bill to a vote, and Obama gave Boehner & Co. plenty of time to work on a solution. They chose to stick their heads in the sand, so the president did exactly what he promised to do. 

As Obama stressed, if the House doesn’t like what’s happening, it should preempt his order by passing a bill. Republicans could create a permanent solution for a desperately needed fair pathway to citizenship, and help millions by allowing them to come out of the shadows and join the rest of us.

Or Republicans can carry out their threats to shut down the government again and impeach Obama. The proverbial ball is in their court, but unless they decide to grab it and at least take a legitimate shot at governing instead of whining, they don’t stand a chance to win the game in 2016.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog.

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Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. By my count, there have been 42 Executive orders on Immigration alone signed since Eisenhower in 1956, many more by Republicans presidents than Dems. All tolled, Presidents have used Executive Orders over 13,000 times on all topics since the founding of the Republic. Most 2-term presidents issue about 300 EO’s on average. Bush I did 400. Eisenhower about 500. Dems usually issue fewer than GOP. The All-Time Winner was FDR…somewhere near 5,000 ( not a typo), but he saved the country and fought a global war after all.

    Having said that —- What scares me most is the GOP leadership is starting to believe its own lies. Much of that mendacity originates within Sen. John Barrasso’s Republican Policy Committee circle, which he now leads.

    Barrasso therefore is a threat to the Republic. There, I’ve said it.
    Dewey Vanderhoff
    Cody, WY