WASHINGTON – The walls were bare and the office was in boxes, but Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., isn’t just moving out, he’s moving up – all the way up to the Senate.
As a conservative on the rise, his opinion is in increasing demand, and the Oklahoman was repeatedly grilled on national television the day before as to whether the GOP would be willing to risk a government shutdown to stop a presidential executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
In an interview with WND, Lankford presented an intriguing alternative scenario in which a shutdown may not be even necessary, making talk of it premature.
He suggested President Obama’s executive order could turn out to be more talk than action and might have very little actual effect on immigration policy.
“My suspicion on this is the president is going to cobble together a bunch of stuff they’ve already done. They are going to change titles and some things and find a way to make this look like a big package. He doesn’t have the legislative authority, actually, to make a lot of decisions. He’s done executive orders in the past that have had big titles but didn’t actually make big changes,” the senator-elect told WND.
And, in that case, he said a shutdown would be a massive overreaction.
“So, we’ll see what this is,” he said. “I’m kind of keeping my powder dry until I see exactly what this is.”
Lankford also implied the GOP may have a secret weapon in the battle to stop amnesty: Democrat voters.
He noted that any unilateral move by the president to grant amnesty is unpopular with most voters. In fact, an exit poll showed 74 percent of voters would disapprove of it.
And if it is unpopular with two-thirds of voters, that means it is unpopular with Democratic voters as well.
That means amnesty is cause for Democrats in elected office to be wary, too.
Lankford mentioned an untold story, so far, was how many Democratic lawmakers were “very nervous” over the prospect of a voter backlash among their supporters over amnesty, especially after the landslide that just gave the GOP control of the Senate.
That’s why, before even discussing a shutdown, the GOP is hoping public opinion will persuade Democrat lawmakers, and perhaps even the president, to change their minds.
Some conservatives see a shutdown as the only option to stop amnesty, if Obama does issue an executive order. GOP leaders are particularly wary that the public would blame Republicans.
The GOP-controlled Congress could send the president a series of short-term spending measures, called continuing resolutions, or CRs, before a Dec. 11 deadline. The CRs could fund everything but the tools he would need to implement amnesty, perhaps including such things as the printing millions of new Social Security cards.
If Obama refused to sign such bills, the government would then be unfunded after Dec. 11 until either the president or Congress changed course.
The GOP was blamed by the mainstream media over the 15-day government shutdown in the fight to stop Obamacare in 2013. But the GOP then went on to a huge election victory in 2014.
So, WND asked Lankford, what was the political risk of another shutdown, if it was that important to stop amnesty?
“People don’t see the budget connection to this (amnesty). So, that will be difficult, just convincing people why you need a government shutdown to deal with it,” he replied, while noting it was an easier connection for voters to make in the Clinton presidency when the issue was welfare reform.
“People understood how shutdowns were connected to that issue – it was entitlement reform and budget related.”
Soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has flatly said there will be no shutdown this year.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he did not think a shutdown should be taken off the table.
When asked if GOP leaders would back efforts to use CRs to stop amnesty, risking a shutdown, Lankford succinctly replied, “I don’t know yet. We’re about to find out.”
While Lankford wants Obama to show his cards before the GOP reacts, Republicans may have an important ace up their sleeves: public opinion.
“The president, in whatever he proposes, doesn’t have full public support. If he had full public support, we would have already passed something, because people would have risen up and said this is what we want. But that’s not where people are,” said Lankford.
He said it was significant to note, “When Oregon votes and says we don’t want illegal driver’s licenses, its pretty clear that the American people are not opposed to immigration. They are opposed to illegal immigration.”
The senator-elect also pointed out the irony in Democrats’ unwillingness to see what was good for the goose as good for the gander.
“I’ve told some of my Democratic colleagues, tell you what, when the next Republican president comes in, he’ll just give amnesty to everyone on Obamacare, and just do a unilateral waive and say, ‘I’m not going to enforce the individual mandate, I’m not going to enforce anything on businesses, I have that authority, is that OK?'” Lankford said with a mischievous smile.
He added, “And, of course, they all say, ‘No, that’s not OK.’ Because, of course, they want to protect Obamacare. So why is it suddenly OK with amnesty? The president can’t just wave a wand and ignore the law and just change it unilaterally. It’s not legal.”
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