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Opinion

Obama paying the price on immigration and, perhaps, trade, for unilaterally rewriting Obamacare

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Michael Barone,Immigration,Barack Obama,John Boehner,State of the Union

Speaker John Boehner yesterday seemed to put the kibosh on major immigration legislation this year. Here's what he said at his press conference.

“The reason I’ve said that we need a step-by-step, common-sense approach to this is so we can build trust with the American people that we’re doing this the right way. And frankly, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the one of trust. The American people, including many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we’re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be. The president seems to change the health care law on a whim, whenever he likes. Now, he is running around the country telling everyone that he’s going to keep acting on his own. He keeps talking about his phone and his pen. And he’s feeding more distrust about whether he is committed to the rule of law. Listen, there’s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws. It’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

In other words, Republican members don’t trust Barack Obama to faithfully execute the law, as the Constitution requires.

An old saying of mine is that nothing in politics is free, but there is some question about when you pay the price. Obama may have thought that the hugely consequential changes he has unilaterally made in his own Obamacare law could be pulled off without paying any price. After all, the law as written is causing huge problems for his fellow Democrats. But now it's apparent that he's paying the price -- at least if he really wants immigration legislation, which seems very unlikely to come forward in the House this year. And he may be paying the price on trade promotion authority, which he said he wants legislation passed on in his State of the Union address, since most of the votes for that in the House must come from Republicans (and he hasn't lifted a visible finger to get any from Democrats).

But maybe he doesn’t really want immigration legislation or trade promotion authority. Maybe he prefers to have them as campaign issues. After all, he has shown considerably more verve in campaigning — with a big rally in Wisconsin just a few days ago — than in governing.

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