Monday, July 16, 2012

The real process problem that Republican leaders have with Obama's immigration order

UPDATE:  per the comments, the change was a policy change and not a new Executive Order as it was originally reported.  Not sure that changes the analysis.)

Republican leaders have complained at great length about the alleged process problem with Obama's DREAM executive order, deferring for two years any action to remove illegal immigrants who were brought here as children.  They say it's not up to Obama to choose which laws to enforce, and the correct process is to change the law via Congress.

So this is silly- prosecutorial discretion is a standard executive function.  The Rs do have a process concern, just not the one they mentioned.  See the recently-passed transportation bill instead:
Thanks to the stubbornness of the Senate’s political odd couple — the liberal Barbara Boxer of California and the conservative James Inhofe of Oklahoma — Congress approved on Friday afternoon a serviceable transportation bill.... it does not include two anti-environmental riders pressed by the House — one approving the risky Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, the other preventing regulation of toxic coal ash waste from power plants....There are flaws, some serious. Financing for “transportation alternatives” — bike paths, pedestrian walkways and the like — suffered modest cuts. The bill also directs the transportation secretary to suspend environmental reviews of highway and transit projects costing less than $5 million, in violation of environmental law.
What's the relation?  Must-pass, popular legislation is a great place to push one's priorities onto one's opposition, especially unpopular things like stopping regulation of toxic coal ash.  The Rs didn't get all they wanted, but they did get some of it.

They wanted the same process for popular, must-pass legislation barely tolerating illegal immigrants brought here as children - they wanted to see what other, unrelated and toxic provisions they could get passed at the same time within Democratic legislation.  Now, it's no longer must-pass - the Ds can help their constituencies via Executive Order, so Rs have to actually offer something better than the EO to get them on board.

Expect the same thing, by the way, for whatever your favorite flavor of climate legislation.  It won't stay pure.  Sorry about that.  To whatever (limited) extent we can get similar climate results via EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act, that reduces Republican leverage, just as Obama did on the immigration issue.