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Important parts of President Barack Obama’s political coalition — Hispanics, the gay and lesbian community, and women — are looking to the White House to act on its own via executive order given that their issues are going nowhere in Congress.
The White House so far has resisted executive orders on the DREAM Act and discrimination by federal contractors as it continues, publicly at least, to push for legislation that appears doomed.
But Obama’s allies on Capitol Hill suggest it’s time to reconsider that cautious approach — and they say the White House is taking another look.
“You’d have to say that the last year and a half of tea party dominance in the House has been a very unproductive period, and they’ve been unwilling to take and even consider some of these issues, so I can understand the frustration of many people on the outside and the dilemma facing the White House,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “I wouldn’t rule it out. ... The president needs to consider taking action by executive order when Congress will not respond to a major national challenge.”
Durbin said the White House is actively looking at preventing deportations of people who would be subject to the DREAM Act, for example.
“It’s being researched by legal counsel, I know that, in the White House and outside,” Durbin said. “I know they’re going through this calculation right now, weighing this and deciding whether to move with the executive order.”
The DREAM Act, which Durbin has championed in the Senate, would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrant children who go to college or join the military.
Durbin acknowledged that an order wouldn’t come without risks.
“You could get a political backlash with an executive order. ... I’m sure there’s a calculation,” he said. “But I’d have to say, in all fairness, we’ve gone a year and a half without a serious overture on DREAM other than Sen. [Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.]. ... There comes a point again where you’ve just got to say that there’s an awful lot of vulnerable people out there.”
Although those affected would still face some legal uncertainty should a new president rescind the order, they are subject to deportation now, Durbin noted.
And a new president would be faced with a new status quo — one where people have been granted protection.
“I think there’s more pressure for him to continue that protection,” Durbin said.