President Barack Obama’s promise to roll back parts of the nation’s immigration laws is a constitutional “nuclear threat,” Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus said Friday.
Obama “is just throwing a barrel of kerosene on a fire if he signs an amnesty order,” Priebus told reporters at a Friday breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, also shifted the GOP’s public policy on immigration by downplaying the support for comprehensive immigration reform that it adopted after the 2012 presidential loss.
Obama’s failure to guard the border against Central American migrants this summer, he said, “created a situation that I think may have not existed before that episode that may have galvanized the country,” around the need for improved border security before other immigration issues.
Priebus’ sharp language shows that the GOP is confident it can win the political challenge created by Obama on Wednesday, when he reiterated his September promise to reduce enforcement of immigration laws by December.
“Before the end of the year, we’re going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system,” Obama said in his post-election press conference.
Executive action by the White House, Obama said, “should be a spur for [congressional Republicans] to actually try to get something done.”
That something, he said, is an immigration bill that allows companies to hire more foreign professionals and also gives “an opportunity for folks who’ve lived here, in many cases, for a very long time … but aren’t properly documented … [to] get through a process that allows them to get legal.”
“You send me a bill that I can sign, and those executive actions go away,” he challenged the new GOP leaders in Congress.
Several polls show strong opposition to a unilateral executive amnesty.
The executive action would be a rejection of Americans’ Nov. 4 demand for more cooperation in Washington D.C., and create a constitutional crisis by challenging Congress’ authority to write the nation’s laws, Priebus said.
Obama’s threat, Priebus said, “in our mind [is] a nuclear threat to reject the basis of the separation of powers doctrine, to reject Article 1 and 2 [of the Constitution] within the power of the press.”
Obama’s threat is also a rejection of the midterm election results, Priebus said. “What he’s essentially telling the American people is that he doesn’t give a damn about Republicans and Democrats working together … and to heck with getting along and working together in Washington.”
He’s “just throwing a barrel of kerosene on a fire if he signs an amnesty order,” he said.
Obama’s failure to enforce border protections has also changed the public’s view of the issue, Priebus said.
By failing to guard the border this year against the wave of 130,000 Central American migrants, “I think he’s unified the country and the electorate around one big principle — that we need to secure the border,” Priebus said.
“I think he created a situation that I think may have not existed before that episode that may have galvanized the country,” he said.
“Because of the president’s haphazard political game, that created an environment that will not allow the legislature to move forward unless people can be convinced that border is secure. … we’re talking about border security first,” before
“As to the immigration issue, I think it’s pretty clear — you know, comprehensive immigration reform’ has become a loaded language,” Priebus said. “It means something different to everybody that you ask.”
“Ultimately, immigration reform is a subject that most people in our party agree that we need to tackle,” he said.