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Obama’s Own Words on Immigration Are Republicans’ Best Ammo

Obama signaled little course correction Wednesday in response to Tuesday's blowout losses for Democrats. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File Photo)
Obama signaled little course correction Wednesday in response to Tuesday's blowout losses for Democrats. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/File Photo)

President Barack Obama spoke so many times against taking broad executive action to end deportations that he’s left Republicans with an arsenal of ammo to use against him.  

Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, vowed “action” will be taken against the president by the new Congress, after excoriating the president for doing what he said he couldn’t.  

McConnell, quoting Obama, said: “‘Democracy is hard,’ he said during a commencement speech in Miami three years ago. ‘But it’s right. [And] changing our laws means doing the hard work of changing minds and changing votes, one by one.'”  

“As someone who well understands just how difficult the work of changing minds and votes can be, I couldn’t agree more with the president’s statement,” McConnell continued. “Americans accept that democracy’s blessings are only made possible by the constraints it imposes — both its legal contours and those imposed by popular election. We accept democracy’s messiness. We accept that we may not always get all of what we want exactly when we want it. And based on more of what the president said in Miami, this is something he seemed to understand too. He was talking about immigration that day, and here’s something else he said on the topic. ‘I know [that] some … wish that I could just bypass Congress and change the law myself. But that’s not how democracy works.’ Indeed, it isn’t.”  

McConnell didn’t comment on how Congress should retaliate.  

“If President Obama acts in defiance of the people and imposes his will on the country, Congress will act,” he said. “We’re considering a variety of options. But make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”  

The White House has not yet detailed its legal justification for Obama’s action, which is expected to result in millions of people here illegally getting work permits and relief from the threat of deportation. Nor has the president fully explained whether he has changed his mind on his own powers or why he can now act, when he suggested previously he did not have the authority to do so.  

Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that some legal justification would be released Thursday. But the White House has also noted that a number of other presidents have granted executive relief without Congress, including Republicans. And Earnest insisted that the president’s actions would be lawful.  

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