Nancy Pelosi, defending Barack Obama, praised Republican presidents who historically took unilateral action on immigration — with the minority leader even drawing parallels between Obama's proposed executive order and Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
"Does the public know that the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?" Pelosi asked during a news conference Thursday. "People have to understand how presidents have made change in our country."
The California Democrat cited the history of U.S. presidents making significant changes without going through Congress, and she brought up the pattern of Republican presidents in the past 50 years exerting their executive authority to act on immigration.
Asked whether Republicans had a case that what the president was proposing was unconstitutional, Pelosi said Obama's action was "absolutely, positively" not outside his constitutional bounds. "Are they making that same accusation of Ronald Reagan? Gerald Ford? Richard Nixon? George Herbert Walker Bush? George W. Bush?" Pelosi asked.
Obama is expected to announce his immigration order Thursday night. In advance of the announcement, Pelosi's office sent out talking points to Democratic offices further making the historical case for action. "Every President since Eisenhower has used that authority to take action on immigration, including 5 Republican Presidents," the memo said.
Republicans are trying to come up with a strategy to prevent the executive action while not holding up government funding bills that could cause a shutdown. Appropriators are considering a number of options, though the latest GOP line is that it would be "impossible " to defund the president's actions in a spending bill.
Whichever way Republicans attempt to address the immigration order, Pelosi is sure to defend it as a necessary step in the face of congressional inaction.
"The president is acting as presidents do," Pelosi said, "because we are not acting as legislators do to pass laws."