Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions has long been the conservative movement’s voice in the lawless wilderness that is our nation’s immigration system.
“What Jeff Sessions is doing is what the Republican Party at large should be doing,” conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh said last summer, days after saying “God bless him” for the senator’s work to secure our nation’s borders.
In 2006, Sessions spoke against the Republican-backed bill that would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal aliens before securing the border they so easily crossed. He then spent the next few years trying to get our federal government to enforce existing immigration laws.
In 2013, Sessions spoke against the Democrat-backed bill that would have also granted amnesty before securing the border, and in the process became, as the National Journal put it, “the loudest voice in Washington opposing President Obama’s immigration policies.” The friendly yet resolute senator has been successful despite being in an era when Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., stripped the minority of their long-held procedural rights. In short, Sessions won even when he held no power.
In 2015, everything will change when Republicans take control of the Senate and Sessions becomes chairman of the powerful Senate Budget Committee and a senior member of the majority controlling the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sessions will no longer be a voice in the political wilderness. He’ll be a man with a plan to stop President Barack Obama’s planned executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens.
Earlier this month Sessions appeared on Fox News and said that Congress could “bar any expenditure of money to carry out such an executive amnesty.” It will be “very expensive” just to produce the identification cards needed for the plan, he explained. Such costs could be targeted by legislation and then prohibited. With no money to implement the massive program, any executive order would simply be a piece of paper.
In a standoff between the White House and Congress many conservatives believe the Republicans will blink. They always do, but Sessions is different. I don’t believe he’ll bend or break on the issue. He understands what is at risk, both democratically and constitutionally.
“President Obama will be exercising powers properly belonging to Congress if he makes good on his threat,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Reid recently urging the lame duck session of the Senate to act out of its own institutional interests. He warned that executive amnesty would be “lawless” and set off a “constitutional crisis.”
He’s right. What if every other president who knocked heads with Congress decided to create laws by himself? Where would our republic be? Who knows, but it wouldn’t be a republic.
Supporters of executive amnesty claim that the dictatorial-like move is justified because Congress is intractable on the issue. But where in our constitutional does it say that the president is allowed to make laws by himself if Congress is being hardheaded? It doesn’t. If the executive and legislative branches disagree, our government is designed so that it’s nearly impossible for one side to prevail. Only the Congress, interestingly enough, is allowed to both write and enact a law through a super majority vote. The president, as a single person, should be powerless to act alone except during an extreme crisis, and even then it’s only temporary.
Democratically, the message sent from voters last week is clear: we want the border secured before anyone is granted status.
“Republicans in the House and Senate campaigned against the Obama-Senate immigration bill and on the pledge to block President Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty,” Sessions said. “The immediate emergency facing our new majority will be fighting the President’s disastrous planned actions, and we will have not only a Constitutional mandate but also a popular mandate to do so.”
Thankfully, with senators like Sessions now in power and leading the charge, the Republicans in Congress will indeed fight back.
Originally published in The Birmingham News, The Mobile Press-Register, The Huntsville Times and The Mississippi Press.