President Obama took the blame on CBS’s Face the Nation this morning for the wave of Democratic losses in the midterm elections, declaring “the buck stops” with him. He added that Democrats failed to win over voters because they didn’t work with Republicans in Washington.
In Tuesday’s hard-fought elections, the GOP seized control of the Senate with 52 seats and increased their majority in the House to 244 seats. Many Democrats have blamed the president for their poor showing; Majority Leader Harry Reid even tied Obama’s low approval rating to the Dems’ tough midterm season.
The president said his administration now would be “experimenting” with ways to court Republicans, given that they’ll control both chambers of Congress beginning in January. “We’ve got to reach out to the other side and, where possible, persuade,” he said on Face the Nation.
In the same interview, Obama issued an ultimatum to House Speaker
John Boehner (R-OH) on immigration reform – a stance that most certainly won’t go over well with Republicans. If Congress doesn’t pass legislation that addresses the issue by the end of the year, Obama said he would take executive action.
“‘John, I’m going to give you some time, but if you can’t get it done before the end of the year, I’m going to have to take the steps that I can to improve the system,’” the president said he told Boehner some time ago, adding on Sunday morning, “I’m going to do what I can do through executive action.”
Obama continued: “It’s not going to be everything that needs to get done. And it will take time to put that in place. In the interim, the minute they pass a bill that addresses the problems with immigration reform, I will sign it and it supersedes whatever actions I take, and I’m encouraging them to do so. On [a] parallel track, we’re going to be implementing an executive action, but if a bill gets passed, nobody’s going to be happier than me to sign it.”
Last week Speaker Boehner said an executive action from Obama would “poison the well” for cooperation with Congress. The House is also not likely to pass immigration legislation in the lame duck session of Congress.
“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path,” Boehner said on Thursday.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) had similar concerns about Obama using executive action on immigration reform, saying that it would destroy any hope of cooperation between Congress and the White House.
“I think it would be like the president pulling the pin out of a hand grenade and throwing it in as we are try to actually work together. I am hoping that cooler heads at the White House can prevail,” he said on Fox News Sunday.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers are also uneasy with President Obama’s deployment of more troops to Iraq to combat ISIS without seeking authorization from Congress. The Pentagon announced Friday an additional 1,500 troops were going to Iraq to serve in non-combat roles.
“I do not think the president has the ability under current authority to authorize 1,500 troops without Congress acting,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
The president, however, did not rule out sending in additional troops on top of the newly announced 1,500 if more are needed.
“As commander-in-chief, I’m never going to say never,” Obama said in the CBS interview. “But what the commanders who presented the plan to me say is that we may actually see fewer troops over time because now we’re seeing coalition members starting to partner with us on the training and assist effort.”
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