Republicans in Congress have spent much of this week warning that the consequences of President Barack Obama’s unilateral immigration reform will be dire. One lawmaker went as far as saying the president’s plans could result in violence in the nation’s streets, while another said that the executive actions could get Obama impeached — or even jailed.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), in an interview with USA Today’s “Capital Download,” predicted that the president’s actions may anger Americans who believe the task of immigration reform should have been left up to Congress.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very dangerous situation,” Coburn said. “You’re going to see — hopefully not — but you could see instances of anarchy.”
When asked what he meant, Coburn replied, “You could see violence.”
Coburn, who announced that he will retire when his term is up, has had a good relationship with the president inside and outside the Capitol, despite his conservative leaning. But the senator pulled no punches in announcing that Obama’s immigration plan is bad for the country.
“What our country needs now is to be pulled together, not divided further,” Coburn said. “I think it’s a terrible political mistake to divide… us further.”
Coburn noted that the president will probably be challenged and will lose in the nation’s courts, but he added that it will take years. What will happen immediately, the lawmaker contends, is irreparable harm to Obama’s relationship with the new Congress.
The government dysfunction on display could lead Americans to question why they must follow the rule of law when the president doesn’t.
“Instead of having the rule of law… in our country today, now we’re starting to have the rule of rulers, and that’s the total antithesis of what this country was founded on,” Coburn said. “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president… then why should it apply to me?”
Obama, he continued, is acting like “an autocratic leader that’s going to disregard what the Constitution says and make law anyway.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said that he believes Obama’s unilateral immigration actions are grounds for impeachment and could possibly land Obama in jail.
Brooks based his opinion on a federal statute that makes it a crime to help immigrants enter the country illegally.
“At some point, you have to evaluate whether the president’s conduct aids or abets, encourages, or entices foreigners to unlawfully cross into the United States of America,” he said, according to Slate. “That has a five-year in-jail penalty associated with it.”
Brooks made the remarks before the president’s immigration overhaul had been revealed in full, so the lawmaker said he wasn’t certain of the grounds on which Obama could be impeached.
“If the president is simply not obeying a statute that is noncriminal in nature, that does not necessarily rise to a high crime or a misdemeanor,” Brooks said.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do yet,” he continued. “Until we see what he’s going to do, it is difficult to say whether he is violating a civil statute or violating a criminal statute.”
Because Congress’s Thanksgiving recess kicked off ahead of the president’s immigration announcements, Americans will have to wait to see what, if any, legislative plans the GOP has to respond to Obama’s reforms.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested Wednesday that lawmakers could pass a resolution announcing that the president acted against Congressional will.
“What I would recommend to the House is, they should immediately pass a resolution saying that what he is doing is contrary to the will of the House of Representatives,” he said on Fox News. “That would set up, I think, a very clear-cut case in the court.”
The Kentucky lawmaker also believes that Obama can be challenged in the courts based on a legal precedent (Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co. v. Sawyer) which says the president’s executive power is diminished if he acts clearly against Congress.
“It may take a while to get him,” Paul said. “But the thing is, history will treat him unkindly on this if he thinks he can become king.”