GOP Governors Mostly Hostile on Obama Immigration Executive Action

Republican governors who may run in '16 weigh in on immigration.

November 19, 2014, 8:03 PM
PHOTO: Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Nov. 19, 2014.
New Jersey Gov. Christ Christie, left, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, Illinois Gov-elect Bruce Rauner and Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan talk about recent Republican party gains during a press conference at the Republican governors' conference in Boca Raton, Fla., Nov. 19, 2014.
J Pat Carter/AP Photo

BOCA RATON, Fla.— -- Potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates at the Republican Governors Association annual conference gave very different responses to the president’s decision to announce major executive action on immigration reform Thursday.

At the gathering at the posh Boca Raton Resort and Club, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dodged, Texas Gov. Rick Perry threatened, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal accused the president of throwing a “temper tantrum” and Ohio Gov. John Kasich sounded a more moderate tone.

Christie, the RGA’s outgoing chairman, refused to weigh in saying, “We will have to wait and see what he says and what he does and what the legal implications are.”

Christie, never known to be less than vocal or shy, was asked several times his thoughts on the president’s decision and he refused each time saying, "I am not going to articulate the basis of a yet unknown candidacy.”

He did note his work in the state on the issue, including legislation he signed last year that gave tuition breaks to New Jersey residents who are the children of undocumented working immigrants, as well as his opposition to drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants.

Asked specifically about a pathway to citizenship, Christie said he would share his thoughts on that issue: “If I run for president.”

Other governors weren’t shy and didn’t hesitate to critique the president, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal calling it “absolutely an overreach of power.”

“This is not how the president should be doing this. If he wants change then he should go to the House, go to the Senate and pass a bill changing the law. He’s not the first president to ever disagree with Congress, but he is becoming the first president to consistently throw a temper tantrum and ignore Congress time and time again,” Jindal said in an interview with ABC News.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence--also considering a possible run for the White House—said the president is acting without the "consent of the governed.”

"I think it would be a profound mistake for the president to overturn America's immigration laws with a stroke of a pen," Pence said.

Gov. Perry, also considering attempting another run in 2016, said he sees a “very real possibility” that his state of Texas sues the president over his executive action, something the man who will take over for him in January, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, has already been saying. Perry noted that he believes if the president does move forward he could even endanger his party’s chances of regaining power in Washington, saying it would be sticking a “a finger in the eye of the American people with no thought about it.”

“I think the president is taking a major, major political chance with what he’s doing,” Perry said at an RGA session with four other possible 2016ers including Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich, Pence and Jindal.

“He’s putting his party in jeopardy, and I think he’s putting members of the Senate and the House in jeopardy,” Perry said.

“The president is going to take this action supposedly tomorrow. It is unconstitutional, in his own words, in his own words,” Perry added. “The American people are not for will not get Americans to support an immigration reform bill until the border is secure…not until that point.”

Kasich, who recently won re-election by a massive margin, consistently gave a more moderate position than his GOP counterparts although he did call unilateral action on the part of the president a “mistake." He did call on Republican leaders to work with the president on immigration. He even said he wouldn’t oppose citizenship eventually for these immigrants after a “laborious and tough process” because “we’ve got to think about what’s going to bring about healing,” adding “everybody in this country has to feel like they have an opportunity.”

The governors gathered here are celebrating their recent big wins, including in blue states like Maryland, Illinois and Massachusetts. In January there will be 31 governors in state house across the country, which is the most for either party in 16 years. They spent a total of $130 million in the cycle.

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