Mitch Perry Report – 11.21.14

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Oh yes he did.

To the surprise of absolutely no one, President Obama last night announced his plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and grant them work permits in a 15-minute prime-time speech.

Now what happens?

That’s something that congressional Republicans will have to decide in the coming weeks, and we’ve heard it could go from blocking funding for this individual program to refusing to bring up for a vote his new Attorney General nominee (Loretta Lynch) to yes, the “I-word,” as Iowa Congressman Steve King said last night on CNN. King was front and center on Anderson Cooper’s 360 immediately after the president’s speech concluded, and you’ve got to wonder if that’s who the GOP wanted to be their public face offering his opinions about what comes next. Actually,  King was fairly circumspect in his remarks, saying that impeachment would be last on the list of things that he’d want to see happen in trying tor rebuke the president for what is perceived as an end-around Congress in making this executive action.

There is definitely a dispute here, but it seems to be more about process than policy. Well, sort of.

When it comes to policy, all we’ve heard from (mostly) House Republicans since the Senate passed the Marco Rubio-led Senate bill on comprehensive immigration in the summer of 2013 is that border security needs to be addressed. If you actually remember,  that bill was in danger of failing before senators amended the bill to include provisions that would double the size of the U.S. Border Patrol along the Mexican border, require the construction of 700 miles of fencing along the southern border and authorize the use of new radar and unmanned aerial drones to track illegal border crossings.

But still House Republicans wouldn’t bite. The reason why John Boehner never brought the bill up is that his caucus as a whole didn’t support the bill. Because it probably would have passed with some Republicans joining the majority of House Democrats. But it would have violated the so-called “Hastert Rule,” named after former House Speaker Dennis Hastert; that is, refusing to bring a bill to the House floor that failed to have a  “majority of the majority.” (For what it’s worth, Hastert told the Daily Beast last year that it “really never existed”).

So, what actually happened last night? Essentially Obama said he was calling the dogs off on deporting up to five million people who could be deported at any time (of course, not all of them, maybe even most of those folks wouldn’t be deported. But they lived under the threat of that until yesterday, and there have been more deportations going on under this president than the previous one). He called what we have now effectively “amnesty,” something that John McCain referred to back in the days when he was fighting for immigration reform.

But of course, critics are focusing on the way that the president is handling this, contradicting his many public statements over the past few years that he didn’t have the powers to do something like this without congressional approval.

On Fox News’ The Kelly File last night, former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen called Obama’s speech “moving” and “beautifully written” but ultimately deeply “cynical,” because he believes the president is simply trying to goad Republicans into overreacting.

Yeah, quite probably. Will they take the bait?

Thiessen went on to say that if Obama had given that same exact speech minus the executive action, it would have been “one of the most powerful speeches of his presidency”  that could have rallied “a super majority of Americans to get behind him.”

But would the majority of Americans have done that? Polls show the public does support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but that they don’t like this executive action.

This will be interesting.

In other news….

In the second part of our sit-down interview with Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the longtime Florida Democrat gives his views on the state of his political party, as well as a number of other issues as he soon begins his re-election campaign for mayor.

And a man who may be as popular as Buckhorn in Tampa, Joe Lopano, led the way yesterday morning in a big-time coronation of Tampa International Airport as it begins it’s nearly $1 billion master plan renovation that will take the next three years to complete.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.