President Obama, despite his party suffering enormous losses two weeks ago, has congressional Republicans right where he wants them thanks to his clever constitutional bypass on immigration -- if you believe the New York Times.
Immigration is the issue where the paper shows its most slant, and its latest story sports a familiar-sounding headline doubtless employed by the Times several times before, graced Saturday's edition: "Battle Over Immigration Poses Risks for G.O.P." (Of course, the Times was saying the same thing before the Republicans gained eight seats and took over the Senate.)
As Republicans debate how far to go in challenging Obama's end-run around Congress that would grant amnesty from deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, the Times' Ashley Parker and Michael Shear waste no time pressuring congressional Republicans not to slip up in the political high-wire act opposing Obama's amnesty.
President Obama’s looming action on immigration is the first real opportunity for the new Republican leadership in Congress to demonstrate they can avoid the pitfalls of opposing the president’s policies at all costs and instead unite around a governing agenda of their own.
But Mr. Obama, in insisting that he will take unilateral action to overhaul the nation’s immigration system, has delivered to his adversaries a compelling political target they may not be able to resist. On a trip to Asia this week, Mr. Obama effectively said “I told you so” to Republicans, saying he gave them every opportunity to avoid the action he is preparing to take.
The taunt by Mr. Obama seems to have worked. A day after routing Democrats in the midterm elections this month, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who will become majority leader in January, tried to immediately pre-empt any talk of a government shutdown. Now, a week later, some members of Mr. McConnell’s party are already talking about doing just that.
A rerun of the 2013 shutdown battles over the Affordable Care Act has the potential to drown out the new Republican message before the party even takes control of Congress. Although House Republicans on Friday did conduct some business -- they approved a bill authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry petroleum from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf Coast -- the continuing talk of impeachment and shutdown threatened to overshadow the vote.
Democrats are already exploiting the divisions among Republicans by painting them as the leaders of government obstruction and gridlock.
“Just over one week after elections, Republicans are back to true form by talking about shutting down the government over an issue the vast majority of Americans support and 68 senators already passed -- a comprehensive compromise on immigration,” said Representative Steve Israel of New York, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
At the same time, Republicans have seized on what they call Mr. Obama’s “executive amnesty.” They are warning the president and his Democratic allies that such action could trigger lawsuits and the threat of another budget stalemate as well as a government shutdown. Speaker John A. Boehner left open the possibility this week of another shutdown, even as Mr. McConnell ruled it out.
The Times pretended to be concerned about the damage Republicans risked inflicting upon themselves with another government shutdown – even though the last shutdown didn't hurt the GOP in the 2014 election cycle.
For now, many Republican strategists worry about political damage if the party’s first action on Capitol Hill is a protracted budget battle that leads to a shutdown -- much as occurred after the shutdown over Mr. Obama’s health care law in 2013. Even many Republicans who have been vocal opponents of the president over immigration say that such an outcome is not their goal.