McCaskill 'not crazy about' Obama immigration order, but says Republicans forced it

By:  Chuck Raasch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

WASHINGTON • Sen. Claire McCaskill said Sunday she is "not crazy about" President Obama's plan to issue executive orders to aid undocumented immigrants, but said that Republicans could avert a potential constitutional showdown by taking up Senate-passed reforms in the House of Representatives.

McCaskill, D-Mo., was on CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer, and her comments were in response to 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney's assertion that a threatened Obama executive order would be a "poke in the eye" of Republican leaders in Congress.

"It is going to set back as opposed to bringing forward the needed reforms that the people want," Romney said.

McCaskill followed by giving a tepid response to Obama's anticipated executive order, which reportedly will slow deportation action against millions of undocumented immigrants, a move Republicans have called amnesty for people in the country illegally. But McCaskill said the fact that House Republican leaders have not allowed debate or a vote on an immigration reform bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate in 2013 undercuts their criticism.

"I am not crazy about it, " she said of the executive order. But she added: "A poke in the eye is for the United States Senate almost a year and a half ago passing by a two thirds majority a comprehensive immigration bill and Speaker (John) Boehner has refused to debate one of the most complicated and difficult problems facing our country."

She added that "all (Boehner) has to do... if he doesn't want the president to act is take up the Senate bill, amend it, change it, put up your own bill. Let's get back to doing our work instead of just blaming the president for everything."

Boehner has said that the executive action would not only violate constitutional divisions of powers but politically would be like a red flag before a bull for Republicans who won control of the Senate and strengthened their House majority in the Nov. 4 elections. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who appeared on the same program with McCaskill, said of Obama: "Even if he doesn't respect elections, he needs to respect the rule of law."

McCaskill told Schieffer that her Democrat Party got "walloped" in the elections, and said that that was why she opposed Sen. Harry Reid remaining as the Democrats' leader in the Senate. With Reid having retained the leadership position, McCaskill said, she hoped to help drive policy debate more toward the ideological middle to "find those things we can work on together" such as transportation funding.

But some Democrat moderates were defeated on Nov. 4 or did not seek re-election, and as Schieffer pointed out, Reid appointed liberal Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Democrat leadership.

McCaskill countered that along with Warren, Reid also installed Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in Senate Democrat leadership. Referring to Tester's buzz-cut hair, McCaskill described him as a "flat-top farmer from Montana who is about as salt of the earth as you can get, and who is a moderate through and through. So his voice is going to be in that room along with Elizabeth Warren's."