The House’s passage of the ENFORCE the Law Act, a bill looking to hold the office of the presidency accountable by granting Congress the authority to file lawsuits against the president for failing to uphold the office’s constitutional responsibilities, has been seen as an attempt by the House GOP to reverse some of the president’s policies enacted by executive action — especially immigration reforms. But two Democratic congressmen who’ve defended the president’s right to carry out such measures voted for it.
Critics claim that the bill is aimed at policies such as the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order (DACA), a DREAM Act–like policy that would prevent children brought to the United States illegally from being deported. The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent said Republicans were “moving backwards on immigration” with the bill; Huffington Post’s Elise Foley wrote it “goes after Dreamers.”
Five Democrats, including two members who have backed comprehensive immigration reform, Texas representatives Henry Cuellar and Pete Gallego, joined Republicans in voting for this reactionary monstrosity. (The other three Democrats who voted with Republicans have not voiced support for the Senate immigration bill.) Both representatives cited the importance of providing oversight of the executive branch as their reasons, highlighting real bipartisan concerns about executive overreach in Congress.
But do they believe Congress should challenge the president’s unilateral immigration policy-making?
Cuellar, who represents the San Antonio area, told National Review Online he understood arguments that the bill could be used to challenge President Obama’s partial implementation of childhood amnesty, but backed the ENFORCE the Law Act anyway. “I’m a believer in the constitutionally mandated separation of powers,” he said, regardless of which party is in office.
The five-term congressman says that the legislation is likely “a message bill” by Republicans — the White House has already hinted President Obama would veto it if it made it out of the Senate — and he supports it “on principle.”
Meanwhile, Gallego, whose district has the longest border with Mexico of any congressman, echoed his colleague’s remarks about Congress’s role. “Whether it was President Bush a few years ago or President Obama today, Congress has an important role to play in oversight,” he said in a statement to NRO.
Cuellar added that, while he generally would prefer to see policies enacted legislatively, there are some circumstances that leave room for prosecutorial discretion. He did not say whether he thinks DACA fell into that category — House Republicans who would gain authority to sue under the ENFORCE Act surely do not.