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Obama fires back at Boehner

Getty Images

By Justin Sink

President Obama took aim at Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Friday as he defended his executive action on immigration, saying the Republican leader had stood between giving “millions of people that chance to get right with the law.”

“I cajoled and I called and I met. I told John Boehner, ‘I would wash your car, I’ll walk your dog  — whatever you need to do, just call the bill,’ ” Obama said. “That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And if the votes hadn’t been there, then we would have had to start over, but at least give it a shot. And he didn’t do it.”

Obama said that the actions he announced to the nation Thursday night, which will largely benefit the parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as those brought to the country as children, were “only a temporary first step.”

“I don’t have the authority to do some really important reforms,” he said.

“Americans are tired of gridlock,” he continued. “We are ready to move forward.”

Republicans have brushed back at the president’s call for legislation, saying he has presented a false choice, and would only accept a bill that bends to his will. They note the White House has threatened to veto any legislation that rolls back his executive action.

“The president is not just saying Congress must ‘pass a bill’ — he’s saying that the lame duck or newly-elected Republican Congress must pass a bill doing exactly what President Obama wants,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. “That’s not a fair or serious demand.”

Boehner, who has criticized Obama as acting like an “emperor” with his changes to immigration policy, on Friday blasted the president’s moves as “damaging the presidency.”

“With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek,” Boehner said in a news conference at the Capitol. “And as I told the president yesterday, he’s damaging the presidency itself.”

The president on Friday tried to put the onus back on lawmakers, saying that “nobody is stopping” them from putting forward legislation.

“When members of Congress question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I have a simple answer,” Obama said. “Pass a bill.”

Obama also rebuffed accusations that his moves — which will offer deportation relief and work permits to 5 million illegal immigrants — are trampling the rule of law.

“I didn’t dissolve parliament — that’s not how our system works. I didn’t steal away the various clerks in the Senate and the House who manage bills,” Obama said. “They can still pass a bill.”

Obama spoke at a Las Vegas high school where two years earlier he implored lawmakers to pass a comprehensive immigration bill, saying “the time had come for Congress to fix our broken immigration system.”

Before speaking, he signed two presidential memoranda putting into motion the sweeping immigration orders he announced the night before.

“Symmetry is a pretty nice idea,” White House domestic policy council director Cecilia Muñoz said Friday. “A lot of people remember that moment — that’s the moment that launched the Senate debate which succeeded in producing a bipartisan bill.”

The event was the first of many that aides say are designed to spur legislative action on immigration. Next week, Obama will head to Chicago to again push his case.

The Nevada speech and the rousing reception it received underscored how the president has returned to the good graces of the Hispanic community after his executive action, with the audience repeatedly breaking in with chants of “Si, se puede” — Spanish for Obama’s slogan, “Yes, we can.”

It was a sharp contrast from campaign events ahead of the midterm elections, when hecklers demanding more action on immigration would repeatedly interrupt Obama.

During the speech, Obama invoked Chicago to argue that immigration reform was an issue that touched everyone in the U.S., not just the Hispanic community.

“We’ve got some Irish immigrants whose papers aren’t in order. We’ve got some Polish immigrants whose papers are not in order. You know, we’ve got some Ukrainian folks,” Obama said. “This is not just a Latino issue; this is an American issue.”

He said the disagreements with Republicans over immigration policy should not be a “deal-breaker” for cooperation as the GOP takes control of Congress.

“That’s not how our democracy works,” Obama said. “Congress certainly should not shut down the government again over this.”

Source: The Hill

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