- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2014

Incoming senators from both parties said Sunday they are ready to work together to bolster the middle class and defend the nation, but a major sticking point — President Obama’s unilateral moves on immigration — threatened to spoil good vibes before they even take the oath of office.

Rep. Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who unseated Democratic Sen. Mark L. Pryor, was the most direct, arguing President Obama’s executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants will set the middle class back a step.

“The president just lost an election, in no small measure because wages for working families are declining and unemployment is still too high in too many places, and the first big action he took after the election was to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get jobs, not for working families to get jobs,” Mr. Cotton told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He said Republican majorities in both chambers will prioritize border security and enforcement of immigration laws first.

“Too many Arkansans are worried about the impact that rampant illegal immigration is having on their communities and local services, or the impact it’s having on jobs for working families all across the country,” he added.



Thom Tillis, a Republican who toppled Democratic Sen. Kay R. Hagan of North Carolina, issued similar sentiments on the immigration theme but also worried about outsourcing.

“We’ve seen a lot of manufacturing jobs go overseas,” Mr. Tillis told “Face the Nation” on CBS. “We’ve seen our economies not quite get back on track in terms of job creation. I think there’s a number of opportunities for Republicans and Democrats to work together.”

Rep. Gary C. Peters, who will assume departing Democratic Sen. Carl Levin’s Michigan seat, was the lone Democrat on the Sunday talk show circuit. He said a path toward immigration reform is on the table — the Senate passed a comprehensive bill — but he struck an optimistic chord about lifting the middle class.

“I’m sure that we can find ways to make sure we’re getting people back to work and really creating the good-paying middle-class jobs which are just so essential,” he said.

Hope springs eternal, even in Washington, but the freshmen made it clear there are fissures in their united front for the middle class.

For one thing, the focus on jobs likely will have to wait out skirmishes over Mr. Obama’s nominations for attorney general and secretary of defense.

Mr. Peters said they “have to stand together — Congress and the president.”

Not to be outdone, Mr. Tillis said the nominees offer a “great opportunity out of the gate for the president to identify consensus nominees that we can all get around and support.”

“Those are very important jobs. They need to be filled,” he said. “But they need to be filled with someone who can take into account both sides of the equation at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

Yet even those hopes hinge on the partisan issue of the day: immigration reform.

“As long as our border is open and is defenseless, then it’s not just an immigration issue, it’s a national security issue,” Mr. Cotton said, alluding to the possibility of the Islamic State or other terrorist groups exploiting the porous border. “And we know that these drug cartels in Mexico are focused primarily on power and profit. They’ll branch out into any activity if it brings them more money and it helps them consolidate control. That’s yet another reason why we have to get control of our border.”

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