President Obama has apparently had enough of leading from behind.
During the health-care push, Obama left Congress to its own devices. On immigration, he’s doing just the opposite, attempting to prod Republican legislators to the middle by demanding a vote on his own plan.
The president insisted Tuesday that Congress vote on his plan as soon as possible, barring agreement on something else.
“It’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place,” Obama said, referring to a bipartisan Senate bill offered up by the so-called Gang of Eight senators, which looks much more palatable to Republicans than Obama’s own plan. “And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.”
In doing so, Obama dared Congress to say “no” to something specific.
It’s the same strategy Obama used in the “fiscal-cliff” talks. With a year-end deadline approaching, he pushed Congress to vote on his own plan: to let higher income tax hikes go into effect if lawmakers couldn’t cut a deal themselves. Obama asked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to call “an up-or-down vote” on that plan, the president announced in a Dec. 28 appearance before cameras at the White House.
“If members of the House or the Senate want to vote ‘no,’ they can, but we should let everybody vote,” Obama said then.
Republicans hate such a negotiation tactic. Throughout Obama’s White House tenure, GOP aides have griped that the president and congressional Democrats have sought political gain while refusing to negotiate in good faith. On immigration, it’s the same.
The Obama plan includes a faster path to citizenship and nothing to trigger border-security enforcement. It would also clear an easier path for same-sex couples.
Before Obama rolled out his immigration plan in Nevada Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida raised concerns that the president would launch a “bidding war.”
In a radio interview with Rush Limbaugh, Rubio dismissed the notion of an up-or-down vote: “It’s going to have to go through committees and people are going to have their input. There’s going to be public hearings. I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it.
“I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input,” Rubio said.
A Senate Republican aide jabbed, “The president’s been gone from the Senate a long time and perhaps he has forgotten that it’s a lot easier to pass legislation if he works with Congress.”
Obama has presented Republicans with a plan they will like much less than what’s been crafted by the bipartisan Senate group. The group plan includes triggers to enforce border-security measures, more unmanned drones and no provisions making it easier for same-sex couples seeking to immigrate or naturalize.
Unless other Republicans come up with a plan of their own, the president has given Republicans a choice between the left and the middle. It’s not hard to tell which they’d prefer.