- - Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Voters on Nov. 4 gave the president the opposite of a mandate. They installed his political opponents in virtually every office that was seriously contested, and in many that had been thought incontestable. Republicans now hold a near-historic majority in the House, a likely majority of 54 in the Senate, 31 Republican governorships, the largest number of Republican state legislators in history, and the largest number of state legislative bodies in history.

Voters disapproved overwhelmingly of the president’s plan to try to grant amnesty and work permits by executive order. An exit poll conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s The Polling Company found that 74 percent wanted Mr. Obama to work with Congress on immigration rather than go around it. Only 20 percent said they wanted the president to take action on his own. In liberal Oregon, nearly 70 percent of voters rejected a ballot measure to give drivers licenses to people in the country illegally.

In his first press conference after the election, President Obama essentially told the American people he doesn’t care; that he’d proceed with “executive actions” anyway. A few days later, the president delivered on that promise.

Professing to want a “comprehensive” immigration law, the Mr. Obama has promised his amnesty scheme will “go away” once Congress passes a bill giving him what he wants.

If the President wants immigration reform, as he says, and believes, as he says, that it’s an urgent priority facing the country, his attempt at executive amnesty is self-defeating. Nothing could do more to ensure no major immigration bills pass

during his presidency.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Winning Immigration at the Grassroots: Defeating amnesty and restoring common sense

Obama refused to wait even until the new Republican Congress is sworn in to see if a Republican House and Senate can work together to produce proposals

he could sign. His actions now risk turning a question of policy into a Constitutional crisis, in defiance of a country which just repudiated his position.

The president’s decision to use his executive powers to refuse to deport millions of people here illegally and give them work permits essentially creates law from scratch. After all, Congress has repeatedly refused to put such a policy into effect.

The responsibility of the president, under the Constitution, is not to create new law. It’s to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Ironically, with his executive amnesty, President Obama not only abrogated his responsibility as the executive (by refusing to enforce the law) but he assumed the legislative function that is Congress’s alone. And he did so not in an area of law where Congress has been silent, but in open defiance of Congress on an issue it has been very clear about.

Such actions are far beyond the power of his office, and they fundamentally challenge the Constitutional framework that has governed the country for two and a half centuries.

His actions will likely destroy Mr. Obama’s chance of getting the immigration bill he claims to want. How could legislators reward a president who willfully upends the Constitutional order? For Congress to give in to his demands by sanctioning his illegal actions after the fact would do permanent damage to the institution of representative government.

The president must know this. Which makes his attempt at executive amnesty a stunningly cynical calculation for any president, nonetheless one who pledged to move beyond partisanship. It’s a cynical use, too, of the millions of people who are in a bad situation and who certainly did not come here to live under the law of one man who views his powers as virtually unlimited. Almost everywhere in the world, that’s what they’re running away from. Now that they’re here, the President wants to use them in a political game designed to split the Republican Party.

The path the president has chosen has as much chance of devastating his own ability to get anything done in the next two years as it does of embarrassing Republicans. Americans are not likely to tolerate lawlessness — not from their immigration system and not from their president.

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