Since the election there has been a lot of talk on the Hill about “coming together to get things done for the country.” Talk is cheap. Within the next two weeks congress will be forced to deal with two major issues which will go a long way toward determining if the members are willing to back up their campaign rhetoric with productive action.
IMMIGRATION REFORM – The word out of the White House is that the president is prepared to back his promise to go it alone on immigration reform. A formal announcement is expected next week. Details of the plan are still being finalized but rumor is that the president’s executive order could pave the way for amnesty for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
As you might expect the Republican response was less than accommodating. Threats ranged from a lawsuit to a government shutdown to impeachment.
Here is what should happen.
The president should issue his executive order and enact whatever immigration reforms he believes he has legal authority to issue under the law. He has campaigned twice on this issue and promised on three separate occasions this year to act alone. If he wants his party to hang on to the minority vote in 2016 he can’t back down on this issue.
Republicans have three viable options. The House can pass the Senate bill that already has BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT. Everybody wins! Republicans really don’t want to pass immigration reform for two reasons: they don’t want to give the president a “legacy win” and don’t want to give illegal immigrants amnesty nor a path to citizenship. What Republicans want is to round up all 11 million illegal immigrants and send them packing. They do however understand that is never going to happen. Their next best option is to pass the senate bill and attach something they want…like lowering the corporate tax rate. Again, a win, win! The last viable option is to sue the president for overstepping his authority, thereby allowing the courts to decide. Absent passing a reform bill, the court system is the best, most reasonable way for Republicans to voice their objection. The court system will take years to work itself out. Reform will ease its way into becoming the law of the land. Not ideal from a Republican point of view. But shutting down the government or impeaching the president is NOT what the people want. Either of these actions will erase all the positive gains Republicans accrued in the last election.
KEYSTONE PIPELINE – It appears that a bill authorizing the Keystone Pipeline is destined to pass through congress with bi-partisan support. The president has made it clear that he does not believe the pipeline will produce anywhere near the jobs nor economic gain that its supporters claim. A straight veto may sit well with the president’s base but it will enrage party moderates who know the pipeline will eventually pass and want something to show for it. The president should veto the bill and send it back with an amendment for something he wants…like an incremental increase in the minimum wage to $10.50 over the next five years. Both parties get something they want. The president should have leveraged this issue long ago. But his disdain for backroom deal making has allowed the controversy fester for six years. Republicans control the legislature. Give them the inevitable but get something for it.
The Republican victory in the mid-terms has backed the president into a corner. He can either come out fighting for what he believes in or sit back and watch his legacy diminish. Early returns indicate that he intends to fight back. Talk is cheap! You have to give a little to get a little.
This is how government is supposed to work.
The question is...will deal making and progress return to the hill?
Or is the silly season back once more?