Hours before Congress broke for the August recess, House Republicans claimed that the President could use executive action to fix the border situation with unaccompanied children fleeing violence in the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In a press statement released Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and other House Republican leaders indicated that President Obama could address the crisis “without the need for congressional action,” a statement tinged with some irony given that just the day before, House Republicans had slammed the President with a lawsuit claiming executive overreach.
“This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws,” the House Republican leadership press release stated. “There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”
Boehner made the statement even though the House still had time Thursday before it broke for the August recess to vote through a $659 million supplemental emergency bill to deal with the child arrivals at the border. The House could still potentially offer up a fix to the border situation when the GOP holds an emergency meeting on Friday morning. Still, Republican leaders are struggling to reach the necessary 218 vote threshold, with some calling on a vote for a separate measure that would defund a 2012 presidential initiative that grants temporary deportation reprieve and work authorization for some undocumented immigrants.
At odds with Boehner’s statement is a lawsuit that House Republicans had authorized Wednesday, which criticizes the President over claims that he had unlawfully overused executive orders. The lawsuit enumerates a number of areas in which they allege Obama had employed executive overreach, but they especially targeted the President for not fully implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Their lawsuit does not specifically mention immigration. Republicans often cite a 2012 executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as a prime example of executive overreach.
Republicans have claimed that the DACA program was responsible for the surge of child arrivals at the southern border since the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, as well as the reason why they could never pass immigration reform. It seems that the executive action that House Republican leaders have expressed the most interest in since last year has been to dismantle the DACA program, voting three times to dissolve the DACA program, an issue that researchers found has little to do with the current border crisis (eligible DACA applicants must have entered and continuously lived in the United States before June 2007).
During an interview with MSNBC’s The Daily Rundown, two Republican members of Congress conceded the conflict between the lawsuit and Boehner’s call for executive action. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) agreed that it didn’t make sense to sue the President, saying, “Look, you can’t say on the one hand that the president is overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area.” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) also agreed, saying, “We can’t go home until we pass a bill. That’s why we’re staying here, that’s why we’re going to get the job done.”