White House spokesman Josh Earnest tried Thursday to portray the rising GOP opposition to President Barack Obama’s proposed amnesty for millions of illegals as a partisan rerun of the 2013 government-shutdown budget fight.
“We would hope that the Republicans wouldn’t do the same thing again, over a common-sense, bipartisan effort [by Obama] to try to mitigate at least some of the worst problems that are caused by our broken immigration system,” Earnest said.
But GOP legislators, candidates and staffers are already working to highlight the public’s worry about the economic impact of Obama’s much-touted plan to provide work permits to millions of illegals during the next several weeks.
“Subverting the rule of law and the legislative process to declare millions of people [amnestied] would be an extremely unpopular action, and would be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb in some of the [2014 Senate] races,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is intended to help elect more GOP Senators.
“It defies all political logic that the president seems to think [executive amnesty] would be something that the American people would accept,” Dayspring said.
“There is no data that suggests that.”
Earnest tried his PR ju-jitsu during the regular daily press briefing.
“It certainly was a shame when Republicans engaged in a strategy to shut down the government [in 2013] over the Affordable Care Act and there were bad consequences from that government shutdown,” Earnest told reporters, after he was asked to comment about GOP legislators’ prediction that Congress would use its power of the purse to block presidential amnesties.
GOP opposition won’t block the president’s action, he said, because “the president is determined to take the kinds of common sense actions that are required to address the worst problems of our broken immigration system.”
Democrats say they won a big political victory in late 2013 when Obama allowed much of the federal government to shutdown at the end of the fiscal year, rather than accept GOP’s budget reforms of the unpopular Obamacare program.
Some Republican candidates and officials are already moving to describe the amnesty as an economic decision that would hurt Americans’ wages and job prospects.
Sen. Jeff Sessions and Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton, are highlighting the economic impact.
That economic perspective was also pushed by Dayspring.
“Executive amnesty would not only subvert the law, but depress wages, and hurt the poorest Americans most of all — including legal immigrants looking to rise into the middle class,” said Dayspring, whose comments were first published by Breitbart.
“Immigration is viewed by many as part of the overall economic equation,” he said.
If Obama pushes ahead with the amnesty, Democratic candidates “will be complicit in slashing wages and making it even more difficult for unemployed Americans trying to get a job to find one,” he said.
So far, the NRSC had stayed on the sidelines in the immigration debate, partly because the GOP’s business donors want more cheap immigrant workers. Dayspring’s comments marks a shift toward a more populist posture, only nine weeks before the November midterm election.
The NRSC has sent polling data showing the public’s view of immigration as an economic factor to GOP campaign staffs, said an official familiar with actions taken by the NRSC.
“But it is up to each and every campaign to asses how this plays in their state,” the source added.
Earnest pushed the government shutdown angle after a reporter asked him about comments from some GOP legislators who said they would use their budget authority to block Obama’s unilateral amnesty.
“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear,” Iowa Rep. Steve King told The Des Moines Register.
“I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution [for the 2015 budget] and how we might deal with that,” he said.
That perspective was echoed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who told Breitbart that the 2015 budget debate will allow Republicans to address the planned unilateral amnesty.
“I assume there will be some sort of a vote on this… I’m interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue,” Rubio said.