Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he’s resigned to a less-than-total victory at the Supreme Court in his lawsuit challenging President Obama’s deportation amnesty, saying Thursday that the best he can hope for is a 4-4 split ruling that would halt the amnesty but fall short of the legal spanking Mr. Obama deserves.
Mr. Abbott also unleashed on Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the rest of the high court, saying they have become little more than a “political body,” with the justices putting their own goals above the rule of law.
Speaking to reporters at a roundtable hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Mr. Abbott said the death of Justice Antonin Scalia dimmed the hopes for the immigration case, which conservatives had anticipated could be a major ruling imposing strict limits on Mr. Obama’s claims of executive power.
Instead, with the eight-member court evenly divided between Democratic and Republican appointees, the outcome is likely to be a split that leaves in place a lower appeals court ruling halting the amnesty — but does not reach the big questions of presidential power.
“Because politics is being played at the United States Supreme Court, I think the best we can hope for is a 4-4 split decision, the consequences of which will mean that we will win, but it will not be a broad-based application across the United States affirming the principle that the president does not have the unilateral authority to rewrite the law,” Mr. Abbott said.
Mr. Abbott launched the challenge in late 2014 as Texas’ attorney general, just weeks before he ascended to the governor’s office.
Texas is now leading 25 other states in the case, which the justices heard on Monday.
Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a leading immigrant rights group, said Mr. Abbott’s lawsuit was “blatantly political.”
He and other advocates are predicting a victory, saying they believe at least six justices, including Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, will decide that Texas doesn’t have standing to sue because it can’t show it’s harmed by the amnesty.
Texas says that it will have to shell out millions of dollars to pay for driver’s licenses that state law says can be issued to those approved under the president’s plans. The states also argue they will face a new influx of illegal immigrants enticed by the amnesty.
Mr. Abbott said he’s convinced the justices will agree that Texas is harmed, not only because of the licenses but also because of the court’s own precedent in a case from the previous decade that recognized Massachusetts had the right to sue the federal government over perceived harms to its coastline stemming from global warming.
Mr. Abbott said Mr. Obama has “turned the Constitution on its head” with the amnesty, which grants tentative legal status and work permits to up to 5 million illegal immigrants. The governor said Mr. Obama usurped Congress’ power to write the laws.
But the governor said the constitutional breakdown runs much deeper, infecting all three branches of government: the courts, which have strayed into politics; the executive, which is expanding its power; and Congress, which is all too eager to give its own power away.
He said one solution is to embrace the convention of the states idea, having state legislatures use the Constitution’s Article V power to call a new session to write amendments to the founding document. Mr. Abbott said the convention should be limited to writing a new rule requiring federal budgets to be balanced and another rule that would give Congress a final say over all regulations the executive branch tries to issue.
Mr. Abbott said he would impose a 10-year limit on the validity of states’ convention call, and would insist there’s agreement ahead of time about the limited scope of amendments to be proposed.
The governor fiercely defended Senate Republicans’ stance denying final action on Judge Merrick Garland, whom Mr. Obama selected to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat of the late Justice Scalia.
“It deserves to be swept up in the political process,” he said, adding that he wished it weren’t so, but the court itself has turned so political that voters should have a say.
He took particular aim at Chief Justice Roberts, calling him “the tip of the spear in playing politics.”
“Chief Justice John Roberts knowingly and clearly and unabashedly rewrote Obamacare twice. What we are seeing is nothing more than naked politics being played. It’s time to stop,” Mr. Abbott said.