GOP plots its revenge: How it hopes to get Obama back for "executive amnesty"

Here are Republicans' various options for retaliating against Obama's Royal Amnesty -- along with pros and cons

By Jim Newell
Published November 24, 2014 5:02PM (EST)
Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell                                   (Reuters/Jason Reed/J. Scott Applewhite/photo montage by Salon)
Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Jason Reed/J. Scott Applewhite/photo montage by Salon)

Anyone else hear that whirring noise in the sky today? The Republicans' #ideas machine is spinning madly. Not so much in terms of developing a broadly popular policy agenda to boost employment and middle-class wages -- obviously the Keystone pipeline will take care of all that as soon as it's muscled through the next Congress. Instead, what we're seeing is a sort of Golden Age of discovery in terms of ways to stick it to Obama for doing something they don't like. They're welcome to do that. Obama does something they don't like -- an executive action on immigration -- they do something he doesn't like. That's what makes America the greatest country in the history of the universe.

Which path(s) will they go down with their response? Some combination of the following.


The president doesn't have to commit a crime per se in order to be impeached. Congress can determine that the president has simply abused his powers to an extent that removal from office is warranted. Celebrated conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, for one, has described executive action as an "impeachable offense."  Among actual legislators, though, impeachment talk is only taking place on the margins. Rep. Walter Jones, who doesn't give a crap about obeying leadership's orders, is all about impeachment.

Upside for Republicans: possibly getting rid of the petty tyrant King Obama.

Downside for Republicans: It will never work because the Senate won't convict him and they would look like silly people.

Defunding executive action through the budget process

This is the most discussed form of recourse. Republicans are considering passing a short-term bill to extent funding of the government into the new, fully Republican-controlled Congress. From there the Congress can send to the president's desk a bill that funds the government through the rest of the fiscal year, but with language barring enforcement of the executive action. This same dynamic comes in other procedural flavors.

This risks a veto from the president and a shutdown. Some Republicans feel that a shutdown might work -- the last shutdown clearly didn't hurt their prospects that much in the 2014 midterms, and the public may rally to their side on this fight. Congressional Republicans who matter, though, like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, seem to think that a shutdown would be a disaster for the Republican brand, since the public tends to blame shutdowns on Republicans.

Upside: getting the executive action defunded.

Downside: shutting down the government and getting blamed for it.

Blocking all confirmations until the "illegal amnesty" is curtailed

Sen. Ted Cruz has floated this option in an Op-Ed. "If the president announces executive amnesty," Cruz writes, "the new Senate majority leader who takes over in January should announce that the 114th Congress will not confirm a single nominee -- executive or judicial -- outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists."

There's something to this, at least as a political tactic for the Republican leadership. It's rich to think that, absent the executive action, the incoming Republican Senate leadership would swiftly and happily approve President Obama's executive and judicial nominations. They were always going to slow-walk them or ignore them altogether. Cruz's idea at least offers a political pretext for the inevitable.

Upside: cover for dirty politics.

Downside: They may look like little whiny babies?

Cease working with the president on possible legislation

Aka citing a "poisoning of the well," or the Politics of Hurt Feelings. By taking this executive action, the conventional wisdom goes, Obama will ruin whatever chances existed of enacting, say, comprehensive immigration reform or corporate tax reform. He will have shown himself to be a big old jerk who cannot be trusted.

This can be effective in the same way that blocking confirmations would be: as a pretext for not doing difficult things that they never had much intention of doing. That doesn't mean it makes sense: There will be nothing in the executive order that bans them from drafting legislation on any topic. But "making sense" is never really all that important due to the ancient doctrine of LOL Nothing Matters.

Upside: cover for not having to work on difficult legislation.

Downside: They will not be able to "show that they can govern," a thing that they probably don't need to do.


This is the option that makes the most sense. It has been determined, in Republican rhetoric, that what Obama intends to do will be "illegal." It will be his "illegal amnesty." If they have cause to believe that what he's doing is illegal, though, the natural recourse would be to challenge the legality of his actions in court. Another piece of rhetoric floating around out there is that Obama's action represents a "constitutional crisis." We find this to be Overblown. If they take the administration to court, and the court finds the executive action unconstitutional, and the administration ignores the court's ruling and goes ahead with the action anyway, then we'll have a constitutional crisis on ours hands. Determinations of illegality and Constitution-shredding, in general, are best resolved through the courts. This is why they exist.

Upside: Courts throw out the executive action.

Downside: Courts don't throw out the executive action and fruitful political terms like "illegal amnesty" and "constitutional crisis" officially lose their relationship with the truth.

Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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