Senate Democratic leaders, in a letter to President Obama on Monday, asked him to circumvent Congress and grant legal status to illegal immigrants on his own, saying he must step in where the House GOP has refused to act.
Their striking letter defends Mr. Obama’s expected claim of legal authority, with the Democrats saying they believe the president has both the power and the responsibility to take action even without explicit congressional authorization for what he wants to do.
“We strongly support your plan to improve as much of the immigration system as you can within your legal authority, and will stand behind you to support changes to keep families together while continuing to enforce our immigration laws in a way that protects our national security and public safety,” said the Democrats, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and joined by his top lieutenants.
Mr. Obama’s anticipated moves have become the focal point for a packed lame-duck session of Congress. The president has said he’ll act before the end of the year, and could grant legal status, or a temporary amnesty, along with work permits to what activists hope will be 7 million illegal immigrants.
Republicans are debating what powers they could use to stop Mr. Obama, with some arguing they should use an upcoming spending bill to try to stop him. GOP leaders, however, fear getting into another shutdown showdown.
“I think he’s actually trying to bait us into doing some of these extreme things,” Rep. Tom Cole told ABC’s “This Week” program over the weekend.