Immigration advocates are warning that this is a real possibility — one that could have a serious impact on the politics of this fight if and when a government shutdown battle looms — and they are preparing to exert maximum pressure on those Democrats they deem at risk.
“We are preparing to pressure them at home and in Washington, to let them know that there will be hell to pay if this happens,” Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, tells me.
Among the Democrats believed to be at risk are Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Donnelly. Angus King (who is an independent but caucuses with Dems) is also a question mark.
The problem, advocates worry, is that if these Democrats come out against any Obama executive action, it could complicate the political battle to come. Republicans are expected to try to pass legislation rolling back whatever Obama does. Democrats will try to block it.
But if Republicans can get 60 votes — which they could do if enough Dems defect — the president would then have to veto it. That could make the politics of this battle worse for Obama: Not only is he acting unilaterally; he’s also facing bipartisan opposition within Congress that is requiring him to protect those unilateral actions with a veto.
“Democrats saw what happens this year when its base doesn’t turn out,” Markos Moulitas, the founder of DailyKos, tells me. “There’d be no better way to ensure more electoral pain than to continue to run against the interests of its own supporters.” Moulitsas went after Senator Tester very, very hard after the latter voted against the DREAM Act, a preview of what might happen in this case.
All of which is to say that there is a very difficult and treacherous political fight ahead, and that even if Obama does act to bring deportation relief to millions, securing it is anything but assured.
Sharry says such an outcome risks tilting public opinion against the president if this then turns into a government shutdown fight. If legislation fails to overturn Obama’s actions, Republicans may then seek to use government funding fights as leverage against them.
If some Democrats oppose Obama’s executive action, it could then become harder to pin the blame for a looming shutdown exclusively on the GOP.
Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant — what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.