Republicans Hint at DREAM Act, Worry About Tyrannical Obama

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 3 2014 8:52 AM

Republicans Hint at DREAM Act, Worry About Tyrannical Obama

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Eric Cantor, in the driver's seat.

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images

The common theme in Eric Cantor's and Paul Ryan's Sunday show interviews, when the questioning came 'round to immigration, was that Barack Obama couldn't be trusted to enforce the law. This has been the mantra for more than a year, from Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions on down to the people who are trying to look interested in passing a reform bill—i.e., Cantor and Ryan.

Here's Eric Cantor:

The president [has] got to demonstrate frankly to the country and the congress can trust him in implementing the laws. Look what he's done with Obamacare. He has selectively enforced that law, and some have raised constitutional questions whether he can even do some things like that. So there's some real question of trust here and the white house continues to really thumb its nose up if you will at the congress. The president in his State of the Union Address did it flat out. He said when congress doesn't work with me, I'll just go do it myself. And again that's part of the problem in this town and why there's been such a difficult time in getting things done.
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And here's Paul Ryan:

It's appropriate you brought this subject up after talking about these executive orders. Here's the issue that all Republicans agree on -- we don't trust the president to enforce the law. So if you actually look at the standards that the Republican leadership put out, which is security first, first we have to secure the border, have interior enforcement, which is a worker verification system, a visa tracking program. 

The Obama-won't-obey-the-law theory has always been a sort of chimera when it comes to talk of immigration reform. Say the Senate bill was passed in the House tomorrow, conferenced, and signed by the president. He's got three years left in office. The legalization component of the Senate bill depends on a border security standard that's going to be determined by a panel of state governors. They have five years to sign off. If you think about the timing of the Affordable Care Act—passed in 2010, implemented at the end of 2013—there's no real danger of Obama using a new immigration law to grant more amnesty. He could do that right now.

So, file these talking points under "Republicans Looking Busy." Blaming the president for any failure of immigration reform is concordant with polls showing Obama's approval among Hispanic voters slipping slightly. The only interesting moment in either interview was this, from Cantor: "Most people say this country has never held kids liable for the misdeeds of their parents." That's a hint that GOP leadership would like to prefer an election after passing the DREAM Act.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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