President Obama’s announcement that his administration intends to block the deportation of as many as 800,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children has already aroused a storm of fury on the right.
Most of the Republican Congressional leadership has been slow to react as they weigh the electoral implications of opposing the aspirations of young people who did not choose to commit any illegal acts and have grown up as Americans, in some cases even serving in the U.S. military.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA), however, has no such doubts. He informed the Des Moines Register on Friday that he believes the president’s executive order not only violates both the Constitution and U.S. statute by waiving the law for certain classes of people but represents a violation of Obama’s oath of office.
“I expect to bring a lawsuit against the president of the United States to suspend his executive order,” King told the paper.
King, who successfully sued then-Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack in 1999 over a state executive order that would have banned discrimination against gay, lesbian, and transgender government employees, believes that this is “a very, very similar case” and that he is on “very solid constitutional ground.”
He also sees it as a potentially potent electoral issue among conservative voters, because “It’s not longer about what policy you might prefer and it’s whether you uphold the Constitution and rule of law.”
Rachel Weiner at the Washington Post, however, believes this is “a fight the White House undoubtedly wants — between an administration attempting to help young immigrants who were raised in the United States and a Republican Party bent on stopping him.”
She suggests that the executive order is likely to boost Obama’s prospects among Hispanic voters, not just through his own actions but because also because it may incite extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric from Republicans like King
Weiner further notes that George W. Bush regularly issued executive orders on everything from climate change to stem cell research and that constitutional experts are skeptical that King can make a case against Obama employing what is essentially no more than an extension of the presidential pardon power.
“If Obama was actively defying an act of Congress, that would [be] a constitutional confrontation,” CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explained. “But I don’t think you can assert that this is actively defying the law. This is simply applying it with [Obama’s] discretion as the executive.”
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