Knoxville News Sentinel: GOP lawmakers: Obama ‘tone deaf' on immigration

Posted on November 14, 2014

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. says President Barack Obama is acting like a dictator when it comes to immigration reform. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander says he's behaving like a king.

"Our founders did not want a king, and the American people don't want a president who acts like one," Alexander said amid reports Obama is prepared to take executive action on immigration, possibly as early as next week.

Obama's threat to bypass Congress and issue an executive order to overhaul the nation's immigration system has infuriated Republicans, just one week after the GOP won back a majority in the U.S. Senate and boosted its advantage in the U.S. House in the Nov. 4 elections.

At a news conference in Myanmar on Friday, Obama said he plans to move ahead with executive action on immigration reform by the end of the year, adding he has given Congress plenty of time to act but it has failed to do so. Though Obama hasn't detailed exactly what he intends to do, one option reportedly under consideration would protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

East Tennesseans in Congress said Obama would be making a huge mistake if he follows through on his threat.

"The president's comments regarding immigration could not have been more tone deaf," said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next year. "His approach is incredibly damaging for our country and undermines the rule of law and Congress' constitutional role."

Duncan, a Knoxville Republican, said most presidents have issued executive orders for non-controversial, housekeeping matters instead of using them "to set up some sort of presidential dictatorship."

"There's a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things," Duncan said. "To have the president just do this on his own, this is the wrong way to go about this."

Alexander, a Maryville Republican, said voters sent a loud message on Election Day "that they are tired of the president going around Congress and want the country to move in a different direction."

"But the president is talking about disregarding the constitution with this executive order and is doubling down on his own failed policies," Alexander said. "Our immigration system is broken, our border is a mess and what Congress needs to do, working with the president, is to secure the border—not further disregard the rule of law and the will of the American people."

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a Johnson City Republican, called Obama's threat "deeply troubling" and warned it would "poison the well for real, long-term and much-needed reform."

"Unfortunately," Roe said, "it's clear the president still has no desire or intention to work with Congress in a meaningful way to get things done for the American people."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican, agreed. "While I was hopeful he would attempt to work with the new Congress," Fleischmann said, "this appears to be a sure sign that he has no plans to change."

Republicans in Congress are divided over how they should respond if Obama follows through on his threat, with some lawmakers pushing for a government shutdown until he relents and others arguing instead that funding for his executive actions should be blocked through an upcoming government funding bill.

Duncan favors using the funding bill to cut off money needed to carry out Obama's orders.

"We have to have some sort of legal, orderly system with immigration, and it has to be enforced," Duncan said. "We just simply couldn't handle the rapid influx of people we would get if we basically just let anyone in who wants to come, even if they bypassed the immigration system that we have in law now."