Miffed that President Barack Obama plans to announce his immigration actions while they are strapped in at 30,000 feet en route to their home districts, congressional Republicans say the timing shows that the president has no regard for their input.
Obama intends to lay out the details of his immigration order at 8 p.m. Thursday, five hours after the House originally had planned to wrap up voting and as many legislators would be making their way home for a 10-day recess.
“It is exactly calculated,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “The president — at least his staff — has taken a look at what time the planes take off from Dulles and Reagan, and they've looked at what time we will be recessing here. When most of the members are wheels up, that's when he does his announcement.”
Obama said Wednesday afternoon that he plans to “continue to work with Congress” on a comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system after his order is unveiled.
But Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said the scheduling of his delivery sends a message contrary to a willingness to compromise.
“The first move out of the box is one of division, instead of unification — one of defiance, rather than saying: ‘Let’s work together. Let’s see what we can do,’” Coburn said. “It’s poor leadership.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., said the president’s choice of timing is “really kind of an ‘in your face’ to Congress” and that it is “backward” to seek common ground on a legislative overhaul of the immigration system after taking executive action.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the president’s promise of trying to find compromise on immigration legislation rings hollow.
“In the next Congress, his executive order would be just as effective or ineffective. But he wasn't willing to give a chance to have an actual negotiation on what could become law,” Issa said. “You don't poison the water and then talk about drinking it.”
Issa noted that the immigration announcement will coincide with televised coverage of the Latin Grammy Awards Show — a move he said is “the height of arrogance.”
“This is just a political stunt,” the chairman said.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said the timing of the order “seems contemptuous of Congress” and complicates negotiations on government funding proposals, which some Republicans have threatened to amend with language that would bar any spending to carry out the executive action.
“I think this is an attempt to bait us into reacting in a way that will distract us from doing what we told the voters we would do, which is to actually make this place work,” Cornyn said.