Hillary Clinton booed and Donald Trump cheered the news that a deadlocked Supreme Court put President Obama’s deportation amnesty on ice, deepening the divide in the presidential race over Supreme Court picks and the executive branch’s role in carving out immigration policy.
The 4-4 ruling served as a reminder of the vacancy on the court left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and the feud on Capitol Hill that has spilled onto the campaign trail over replacing him before the November elections.
Mrs. Clinton blamed the ruling not on the court but on Senate Republicans, who have refused to hold confirmation hearings and a vote on President Obama’s high court nominee, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland.
“In addition to throwing millions of families across our country into a state of uncertainty, this decision reminds us how much damage Senate Republicans are doing by refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court,” the former secretary of state said, assuming Judge Garland would have come down on the administration’s side.
“Our families and our country need and deserve a full bench, and Senate Republicans need to stop playing political games with our democracy and give Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and vote,” she said.
Mr. Trump has maintained that the vacancy left by Scalia’s death should be filled by Mr. Obama’s successor. Last month, he unveiled a list of 11 potential Supreme Court nominees in an attempt to assuage Republican concerns about his candidacy.
He said the court’s split ruling on United States v. Texas “undid one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a president” and that it underscored what is on the line in the presidential election.
“The election, and the Supreme Court appointments that come with it, will decide whether or not we have a border and, hence, a country,” Mr. Trump said.
Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist, said the ruling has provided the Clinton and Trump camps with talking points.
“For those that are nervous about Trump that are Republicans, it reinforces the importance of the Supreme Court because we know if Hillary wins, that ninth judge is going to be pro-immigration all that time,” Mr. O’Connell said.
“Simultaneously Hillary is probably happy that they came out with the split ruling because even though Hispanics are overwhelmingly on her side, she needs more to fire them up — particularly in states like Florida and Arizona — in order to keep Trump on his heels,” he said.
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton used the ruling to slam Mr. Trump.
“This decision is also a stark reminder of the harm Donald Trump would do to our families, our communities and our country. Trump has pledged to repeal President Obama’s executive actions on his first day in office,” she said. “He has called Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers.’ He has called for creating a deportation force to tear 11 million people away from their families and their homes.”
The presumptive Republican nominee returned fire by saying Mrs. Clinton’s immigration plans would doom minority communities.
“Clinton has pledged to expand Obama’s executive amnesty, hurting poor African-American and Hispanic workers by giving away their jobs and federal resources to illegal immigrant labor — while making us all less safe,” he said. “It is time to protect our country and make America safe again and great again for everyone.”
Mr. Obama’s 2014 action was tailored to help more than 5 million illegal immigrants avoid deportation and obtain work permits. Texas and 25 other states challenged the move, saying the Obama administration overstepped its constitutional authority.