GOP reels after deft Obama move

GOP reels after deft Obama move

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy Trump crosses new line with Omar, Tlaib, Israel move 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 PortmanSchumer blasts 'red flag' gun legislation as 'ineffective cop out' McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation Shaken Portman urges support for 'red flag' laws after Ohio shooting MORE (R-Ohio) and Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteTrump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Sinema, Gallagher fastest lawmakers in charity race 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 McConnellTrump faces crucial decisions on economy, guns Are Democrats turning Trump-like? House Democrat calls for gun control: Cities can ban plastic straws but 'we can't ban assault weapons?' 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 CantorEmbattled Juul seeks allies in Washington GOP faces tough battle to become 'party of health care' 737 crisis tests Boeing's clout in Washington MORE (R-Va.) did not respond Monday to requests for comment, and the office of House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children MORE (R-Ohio) was almost as quiet.

“He hasn’t said anything at this point,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbyists race to cash in on cannabis boom Rising star Ratcliffe faces battle to become Trump's intel chief This little engine delivers results for DC children 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 panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - Trump attack on progressive Dems draws sharp rebuke GOP senators decline to criticize Acosta after new Epstein charges 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 RodgersLawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress EPA head clashes with California over how car emissions negotiations broke down 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 Reid2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care Reid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Panel: How Biden's gaffes could cost him against Trump 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.