Who can forget the run-up to the 2010 passage of ObamaCare? A newly elected president, with a great smile, enjoying an unprecedented outpouring of goodwill from members of both political parties, and owning super majorities in both houses of Congress, had decided that passing a huge health care bill was in the public interest. It seemed to bother him little that not one member of the opposition party, the GOP, had any interest in such a bill. Using his initially large Congressional majorities and later, after losing such majorities, various parliamentary tricks, the president finally succeeded in getting his heath care bill passed. Ever since, the GOP has been futilely attempting its repeal, even though the task has been impossible with Obama still in the White House and the Senate in Democrat hands. This ongoing ObamaCare tug-of-war has, frustratingly for everyone, including no doubt the president, defined most of the Obama years.
It didn’t have to be this way. The president could have gotten large, bipartisan agreements on health care had he instead gone the piecemeal approach. In place of one incomprehensible law (20,000 pages!), a law that then-Speaker Pelosi famously had said must first be passed to learn what it contains, the president could have much more easily achieved most of his goals by compromising with Republicans. Had the president presented various bills addressing bipartisan heath care concerns, such as 1) allowing young adults to remain on parents’ health plans until their mid-20’s; 2) having recourse if denied health insurance because of pre-existing conditions; 3) permitting more insurance competition, such as allowing consumer inter-state insurance purchases; 4) and pursuing other such proposals enjoying vast bipartisan support, he would have gotten much of what he wanted without the ongoing acrimony. How different the past six years would have been.
But the president, an extreme ideologue posing as a reasonable man, preferred to force his all-encompassing health care bill onto the American people. To a large degree, this was to make his base happy–the young, the black, women, Hispanics–rather than seek compromise and consensus. Furthermore, he felt he owed these groups since his election was possible only with their large election-day turnout. So the president went ahead, without a single GOP vote, thereby making the biggest mistake of his presidency–campaigning for and ultimately signing the toxic and extremely partisan ObamaCare bill.
Sadly, the president seems not to have learned much. On the issue of immigration reform he is about to make the same mistake, and for largely the same reasons–satisfying his base instead of compromising with the GOP. Instead of working with those with opposing views, he threatens to ignore them by using his questionable executive authority to grant amnesty by fiat–bypassing Congress completely.
Whether the president wishes to acknowledge it or not, we have just witnessed a wave midterm election, punishing the Democrats for the Obama policies to which they are tethered. The GOP has gained at least seven seats in the Senate (which will most likely increase to nine seats after Alaska’s votes are fully counted and Louisiana has its runoff). Furthermore, the House GOP majority has expanded by at least eleven seats, leaving a huge GOP majority not seen for many generations. Additionally, the GOP has picked up many new governorships throughout the country. There is no doubt this was an election rebuking the Obama excesses and various scandals–ObamaCare, hyper-partisan immigration proposals, IRS targeting of conservatives, and so forth. Yet the president behaves as if the election has changed nothing, at least nothing significant.
Most Americans are in favor of some sort of immigration reform. The current system is untenable. But by large majorities most do not wish for a huge ObamaCare-like solution. And they certainly do not wish for a solution that grants amnesty without first securing the borders. Until our borders are secure, granting amnesty will only encourage more illegal immigration. Every third grader understands this. Yet the president, in line with his poorly thought-out promise to immigration activists to move ahead without Congress after the midterms, intends to do so, apparently having learned nothing from his ObamaCare debacle.
But there is a new political reality in Washington. Come January, the GOP will control the Senate in addition to the House. There will be no Harry Reid running the Senate blocking every GOP initiative. If the president imprudently does go ahead with his threat, the GOP can, and will, defund his effort. Without funding, his executive order would be just a lot of hot air floating out of the White House. For instance, from where will the money come for issuing work permits for those getting amnesty if the president’s executive action is defunded? The money won’t exist. The power to defund is a power clearly in Congressional hands, and the new GOP multicameral majorities will surely use it.
Is this how the president wishes his final two years remembered? Just more of the same? After Clinton had been shellacked in the 1994 elections, he reached across the aisle, thereby commencing his most productive period as president, passing bipartisan welfare reform and trade agreements. But it appears that our current president has no such inclinations. Fatalistically, he operates only to satisfy his base, even at the cost of possibly repairing parts of his precarious, tarnished legacy.
The American people have spoken loudly and very clearly. No amnesty until the borders are secure. If the president chooses to ignore this, choosing instead, in effect, to fight the American people, he will most surely lose. The president’s Pyrrhic victory that was ObamaCare would soon reappear in a new form: failed immigration reform, thereby permanently casting in stone Obama’s failed presidency.