WASHINGTON — President Obama taunted congressional Republicans critical of his executive action on immigration, blaming their foot-dragging for his decisive action to protect 5 million people illegally in the U.S.
Appearing at a suburban Las Vegas high school a day after announcing his decision, the President was both mocking and defiant while back in Washington and across the country Republican officials bitterly denounced him.
Obama said he acted because House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused for a year and a half to allow a vote on a bipartisan immigration overhaul the Senate passed in 2013.
“It has now been 512 days — a year and a half in which the only thing standing in the way of that bipartisan bill and my desk, so I can sign the bill, is a simple yes or no vote in the House of Representatives,” Obama said.
“I told John Boehner, ‘I’ll wash your car. I’ll walk your dog. Whatever you needed to do. Just call the bill.’ And he didn’t do it.”
Boehner, who does not have a dog, and usually rides in a chauffeured SUV, charged Friday that Obama was”damaging the presidency” by acting without the approval of Congress.
“We will not stand idle as the President undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk,” Boehner said.
He did not specify what actions the House may take. Other Republicans suggested everything from impeaching the President to defunding his executive orders.
Obama laughed off the threats, urging his opponents to respond with legislation.
“Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time and everybody knows it,” the President said.”We can’t afford it anymore.”
He joked he can’t”dissolve Parliament” or “steal the various clerks” who manage congressional legislation.
“You don’t need me to call a vote to pass a bill,” Obama said.”Pass a bill.”
A boisterous crowd of about 1,600 at the Del Sol High School, where Obama laid out immigration reform plans two years ago, echoed his refrain.
“Pass a bill! Pass a bill!” they chanted, as Obama paused.
Before traveling to Nevada, Obama signed the executive orders, which free nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation.
The actions allow undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents to win three-year work permits and temporary exemption from deportation if they have been in the country for more than five years and pass a criminal background check.
Obama also broadened a 2012 order allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.
His Las Vegas speech echoed his address Thursday night outlining his actions.
But the President struck a more confrontational tone Friday as he appealed to a fast-growing population of Hispanic voters expected to boost Democrats in 2016.
While New York Democrats welcomed the action, Staten Island Republican Rep. Michael Grimm blasted the move.
Grimm charged that Obama’s action”does nothing except create a class of noncitizen residents that further complicates our already convoluted immigration system.
A federal grand jury indicted Grimm in April on charges that include employing undocumented immigrants at a health eatery he ran before his 2010 election. Grimm has said he is innocent.
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