After soundly defeating Democrats in the recent election, the GOP wants to claim a policy mandate. The problem is that Republicans don’t have many meaningful policy ideas. Sure, there are the perennial favorites of abortion restrictions and tax cuts for the wealthy. Beyond that, what does today’s Republican Party stand for? Answer: Not Obama.
Not Obama’s Obamacare.
Not Obama’s EPA.
Not Obama’s Department of Justice.
Not Obama’s gay agenda.
And certainly not Obama’s immigration reform initiatives.
The administration will soon take executive action to provide temporary legal status to potentially millions of undocumented immigrants who reside in the US. Republicans are threatening that such action would be an all-out declaration of war against the GOP, ruining any chances for bipartisan legislative accomplishments in the new Congress. Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, is “deeply disturbed” by the thought of executive action. And John McCain worries that executive orders will “dramatically harm” prospects for bipartisan legislative compromise.
President Obama has little to lose by moving forward on immigration. The House GOP has proven itself consistently unwilling to bring immigration overhaul to a vote even with strong bipartisan backing from the Senate. Given this history, the president has no obligation to take Republicans or their hollow calls for bipartisanship seriously. The time has long since passed to believe John Boehner’s House has the intent or capacity to approach serious and complex issues from a place of wanting to govern. And it’s not clear that Mitch McConnell has any stronger inclination to govern when his post-election chest thumping stops.
The toxic atmosphere in the nations’ capital is unlikely to change soon. Republicans will continue to do their best to pin blame on the White House and stonewall meaningful legislative accomplishments for the remainder of President Obama’s term. He can reclaim the political driver’s seat by signing executive orders on immigration and forcing a GOP response. Doing nothing only encourages Republicans to raise the stakes of inaction even higher.