GOP reels after deft Obama move

GOP reels after deft Obama move

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (R-Fla.) on Monday dropped his plan to push a DREAM Act through Congress before the election — the latest sign of the GOP’s struggle to counter President Obama’s move to stop deporting younger illegal immigrants.

Obama’s decision, which some Republican strategists were describing as a deft political move, highlights the dilemma facing Republican leaders, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. 

Republicans are seeking ways to appeal to Latino voters ahead of November, but want to avoid alienating conservatives who think all illegal immigrants have broken the law and should be deported.

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“If they express too much outrage it could hurt Romney with Hispanics, so it’s exactly the dilemma that Republicans face long-term, which is finding a way to address Hispanic voters in a way that doesn’t lose the base,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, president of Potomac Strategy Group.

“From a political standpoint, you almost have to give the White House credit — they really narrowly focused this thing in such a way that it did box Republicans in a little bit,” he added.

The move also might have downgraded Rubio’s chance of becoming Romney’s vice presidential pick by forcing Republicans to play defense on immigration. Picking Rubio as his running mate would highlight the issue of immigration and deportations, where Romney could be disadvantaged, instead of the economy. 



As a result, Obama’s play for Hispanic voters might have boosted the vice presidential prospects of Sens. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Overnight Tech: Regulators to look at trading in bitcoin futures | Computer chip flaws present new security problem | Zuckerberg vows to improve Facebook in 2018 MORE (R-Ohio) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (R-N.H.).  


Rubio, who had vowed to introduce a version of the DREAM Act this summer as a high-profile Republican effort to woo Latino voters, suggested Monday that Obama’s move stole the GOP’s thunder.

“People are going to say to me, ‘Why are we going to need to do anything on this now? It has been dealt with. We can wait until after the election,’ ” the Cuban-American freshman senator told The Wall Street Journal. “And it is going to be hard to argue against that.”

Republican leaders in Congress have reacted to Obama’s announcement with caution.  

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE (R-Ky.), who had initially declined to comment, weighed in Monday to criticize the unilateral nature of Obama’s move — but not the policy itself. 

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, canceled a Monday press conference on the issue. 

And despite charges from conservative groups and some rank-and-file Republicans that the new rule will reward lawbreakers and steal jobs from U.S. citizens, GOP leaders in the lower chamber — who have been relentless in their criticisms of Obama on just about every issue to come to the fore this year — have so far held their tongues.

The office of House Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorEric Cantor: Moore ‘deserves to lose’ If we want to make immigration great again, let's make it bipartisan Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns MORE (R-Va.) did not respond Monday to requests for comment, and the office of House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE (R-Ohio) was almost as quiet.

“He hasn’t said anything at this point,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Even some conservatives seem open to return to earmarks Overnight Finance: Trump, lawmakers take key step to immigration deal | Trump urges Congress to bring back earmarks | Tax law poised to create windfall for states | Trump to attend Davos | Dimon walks back bitcoin criticism MORE spokesman Michael Steel said Monday in an email.

House Republicans close to Romney have also clammed up about the new immigration rules — among the most controversial domestic policies of Obama’s White House tenure.

A spokesman for Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzHouse Oversight slams TSA after report says officials 'interfered' in disciplinary case Gowdy steps down from Ethics Committee, citing 'challenging workload' Criminal referrals by members of Congress raise procedural questions MORE — a typically outspoken Utah Republican who won his seat in part by hammering his opponent for supporting “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants — declined to comment on any aspect of the issue Monday. And a spokeswoman for Rep. Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Overnight Finance: GOP celebrates as final tax vote nears | Senate expected to pass bill tonight | Why the House needs to vote again | Panel rejects Trump pick to head Ex-Im | All major banks pass Fed 'living will' test Trump congratulates House GOP on passing tax bill MORE (R-Wash.), Romney’s official Capitol Hill liaison, did not return a request for comment.

Several GOP strategists said Republican leaders are staying silent largely because Obama’s move has stuck them in an extremely tricky spot and they’re taking their time to craft a smart, thought-out response.

Mackowiak and another GOP strategist who did not want to be identified said they suspect that House leaders are actively meeting with each other behind the scenes — as well as with staff from Romney and the Republican National Committee — to discuss which arguments against Obama’s move will have the most traction with voters on both a district and national level.

“It takes a little while to analyze the situation and figure out which arguments have the most resonance and see how the policy will work,” said Mackowiak. 

Unveiled Friday by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the new rules will allow qualifying illegal immigrants who were brought to the country as children to remain and work without being targeted for deportation. The policy does not go as far as the DREAM Act that passed the House in 2010, which would create an eventual route to citizenship. But immigrant-rights advocates and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill were quick to hail the move as a long-overdue step in the direction of a saner immigration strategy. 

“It frees up law enforcement resources to focus on people who actually threaten public safety and national security,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.) said on the chamber floor Monday. “And it removes the specter of deportation that has hovered over deserving young men and women.”

The immigration issue has put Romney in a pickle. The former Massachusetts governor tacked hard to the right against illegal immigrants during the hotly contested GOP primary, but has since softened that position in an effort to appeal to Hispanic voters. In a move that’s sure to agitate conservatives, Romney over the weekend dodged questions about whether he, if elected, would repeal Obama’s new rules.

Upping the pressure on Republicans, a poll conducted by Latino Decisions-America’s Voice over the weekend found that Hispanic voters in five key swing states are more energized about Obama in the wake of his more lenient deportation rules. In Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, 49 percent of Latino voters said the policy made them more enthusiastic about Obama, the poll found, compared to just 14 percent who were less so.