WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed support for President Barack Obama’s use of executive action on immigration legislation, saying that the real “failure of leadership” is with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for being “spooked” into a corner by Tea Party conservatives.
In a statement following Obama’s announcement that he would act on immigration reform “on my own, without Congress,” Reid joined a series of Senate Democrats in blaming House Republicans for their failure to pass immigration legislation.
“Our broken immigration system is one of the biggest challenges we face as a nation and Speaker Boehner knows that addressing it is the right thing to do, yet the Tea Party spooked him into cowering in a corner,” Reid said in a statement to Politico. “Instead of working with Democrats to forge bipartisan solutions, Speaker Boehner has sunk to suing the President and wasting taxpayer money in a transparent attempt to appease the Tea Party.”
In his Monday announcement, Obama also cited the Tea Party for having a stronghold over House Republicans.
“Our country and our economy would be stronger today if House Republicans had allowed a simple yes-or-no vote on this bill or, for that matter, any bill. They’d be following the will of the majority of the American people who support reform,” Obama said in the Rose Garden. “Instead, they’ve proven again and again that they’re unwilling to stand up to the tea party in order to do what’s best for the country. And the worst part about it is a bunch of them know better.”
Obama noted that Boehner told him that immigration reform would not be put to a vote this year because the president is not trusted to enforce current or future border security laws.
Longtime immigration reform supporter Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said last week that House Republicans are too “afraid of the Tea Party” to pass immigration reform. But he added that the Tea Party’s power has “peaked” amid recent congressional losses and the GOP should now move forward.
“An informal whip count before Cantor lost indicated a majority of them said let’s move a bill forward even if they don’t want to vote for it,” said Schumer. “So they know. They all know. But it’s a small sliver of a minority of America which has disproportionate weight — the Tea Party — that prevents them from moving forward.”
The New York Democrat said GOP members of the House are being led by a “fear [that] is greater than the reality,” and that Republicans are being bullied out of action by “the almost hateful anti-immigrant forces led by [Iowa Rep.] Steven King.”
“They’re afraid of the Tea Party. They’re afraid of the word amnesty even though our bill is not amnesty at all, but Rush Limbaugh says it enough, and they’re afraid that their primary voters that skew far-right believe it. The Tea Party may be a sliver of the American public but they make a huge percentage of primary voters in their district.”
This week, Schumer said patience has run out with House Republicans and Obama now has “no choice” but to use administrative action on immigration.
Reid agreed, saying “hard-working families” are being “torn apart” while the House GOP remains unmoved on immigration legislation.
“With no prospect for reform in the Republican-led House, the choice is between taking action and letting hard-working families continue to be torn apart,” said Reid. “President Obama is right to take action to protect families by asking Secretary Johnson and Attorney General Holder to look at what he can do within his administrative authority.”