Don’t expect a novel legal justification from the White House for President Barack Obama’s decision to provide unilateral deportation relief to the undocumented, said Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.
When asked if he thinks the president's move would survive a likely court challenge, Reid said, “In the secret bowels of the White House did [the president] and his staff come up with something unique and different? No.”
Reid argued that over the past 60 years every president has taken immigration-related executive action, so no new legal justification is needed. “This isn’t anything new and unique, it’s been done many times,” said Reid, who remains majority leader until the end of the session, at a press conference with his leadership team.
The president’s plan appears to allow undocumented immigrants in this country for at least five years who pass a background check and pay fees and taxes to be eligible to receive permits to work, relieving them of the possibility of deportation.
At the press conference, Senate Democratic leaders presented a united front in support of Obama’s decision as they urged House Republicans to pass the Senate approved bill.
“We know well that this decision is not a permanent solution, it is a first step,” Reid said.
However Reid added that he believes any future president would have a tough time rescinding the action due to the political blowback from the many families, who have both legal and undocumented members, that he expects will participate.
“If we had it our way President Obama would be signing a comprehensive immigration [overhaul] bill into law,” Reid said.
The Senate passed a bipartisan immigration measure in 2013. But the Republican-run House never considered the proposal, citing concerns from conservatives that the bill would provide a path to citizenship to those in this country illegally — a move they argue amounts to providing amnesty to those who broke the law.
After the press conference Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., who was one of a bipartisan group of eight senators who drafted the immigration measure, said he would vote for it again in the next Congress if he gets a chance.
"I can tell you I'm in favor of comprehensive immigration reform," Durbin said. "I'm in favor of the bill that we passed — for the most part — there were compromises that were made. If someone suggests bringing that same bill to the floor in the next Senate, I'll vote for it again."
Asked if he or one of his colleagues would offer up the entire Senate-passed bill as an amendment next year when Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the majority leader, Durbin said that was "not a bad idea."
Republicans have pledged a legislative response to Obama's action, but it’s unclear what that would be.
“We’re considering a variety of options,” said McConnell, who will be majority leader beginning next year. “Make no mistake. When the newly elected representatives of the people take their seats, they will act.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has proposed that McConnell refuse to confirm any of Obama’s nominations, except those in vital security positions, in the next Congress.
“That is a serious and potent step,” Cruz said after giving a speech on the president action on the Senate floor.
He declined to say if he had talked with McConnell about his proposal.
He also called for adding policy riders on spending bills to prevent funds from being spent to carry out Obama’s plan.
Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report. Related: Obama's Own Words on Immigration Are Republicans' Best Ammo Grassley: Obama's Immigration Action Worse Than King George Senate Republicans Up in 2016: No Shutdown Over Immigration GOP: Exec Action Timing Sends Divisive Signal House GOP Eyes Rescission Bill in Standoff Over Immigration Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.