White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the president’s record on border security Wednesday and dismissed concerns raised by members of both parties over the legality of delaying the employer health care mandate of the Affordable Care Act for a year.
Several Republicans in recent days — including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma — have said the decision to delay enforcement of the mandate has increased distrust of the president. And they questioned whether the White House would implement border security provisions included in any immigration overhaul.
“Nobody trusts the government to do that and certainly Republican voters, with all due respect, don’t trust the president on this issue,” Cole said. “They are very much in the mode of ‘show me first.’ … It doesn’t help when the president unilaterally decides to suspend parts of law. He’s doing it with things that he supports, like affordable care, so members look at that and say ‘Well, why wouldn’t he just suspend E-Verify?’”
Cantor, in an appearance on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show Tuesday, said the decision to not enforce the mandate was part of an “imperial presidency.” He also said there is a lack of trust that the president will enforce border security.
But Carney noted that border security has gotten markedly better under President Barack Obama.
“The president has demonstrated through deed, not just words, his commitment to enhanced border security,” he said. “It’s happened. And he has demonstrated by his support for the enormous increase in resources for even greater enhancement of border security placed into the Senate immigration reform bill that he supports even further improvements in our border security. I mean, that’s just a fact.”
Asked whether Republicans could trust that he would implement E-Verify, Carney replied affirmatively.
“He would do everything he can, as he has for the first four-and-a-half years of his presidency, to enhance our border security. And he’s got the record to prove it,” Carney said.
At some point, Carney said, “they either are for immigration reform or they’re not.”
Carney also was repeatedly pressed over a quote in The New York Times from Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, questioning the legality of the decision to delay implementation of a portion of the health care law.
“This was the law. How can they change the law?” Harkin asked.
Carney said that there are numerous examples of laws being delayed during implementation and directed reporters to read the federal register for examples.
“People who suggest that there’s anything unusual about the delaying of a deadline and the implementation of a … complex and comprehensive law are, you know, deliberately sticking their heads in the sand or are — or just willfully ignorant about past precedent. … It’s not serious,” Carney said.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.