In case anyone thought Republicans would offer a more meaningful and spirited response to Obama’s executive action on guns than they did on immigration, you’re out of luck. Major GOP leaders have offered the typical bluster and contrived outrage. Some even call his action unconstitutional, but fail to respond in a manner that lives up to the severity of the charge.
Absent from all their responses, however, is a commitment to defund any new executive action. That is because they just gave away the full year’s funding until October. Absent from Senate Majority Leader McConnell statement and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn’s response is a commitment to block every Obama judicial and executive nomination in the Senate until he rescinds his panoply of executive orders. Absent from the statements of prominent GOP leaders is even a modicum of fighting words and rhetorical jujitsu, that would put Obama on defense with regards to the release of criminal aliens, pardoning violent gun felons, support for sanctuary cities, refusal to implement visa tracking, and embracing Islamic refugees.
Here is a smattering of their responses (click on links for their full statements):
“No matter what President Obama says, his word does not trump the Second Amendment. We will conduct vigilant oversight. His executive order will no doubt be challenged in the courts. Ultimately, everything the president has done can be overturned by a Republican president, which is another reason we must win in November.”
“The American people have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Ultimately, this executive ‘guidance’ is only a weak gesture—a shell of what the President actually wants. Congress and the American people have repeatedly said ‘no’ to President Obama’s ineffective policies that would infringe on the Second Amendment. The House continues to stand for the Constitution and in defense of the American people’s rights.”
“The people’s elected representatives in Congress will oversee these latest actions to determine whether they follow federal law and the Constitution. But there is another point here as well. At a time when the American people are looking to the Commander in Chief to provide real leadership in countering terrorist threats from ISIL and Al Qaeda, what Americans seem to get instead are lectures, distractions, and attempts to undermine their fundamental Second Amendment rights.”
“Legislation I’ve introduced, the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, would strengthen the existing background check system without expanding it and improve treatment, preventative screening and crisis response for individuals with mental illness.
“If the President would roll up his sleeves and work with the bipartisan coalition in Congress who support legislation reforming our mental health system, together we could help prevent many of these tragedies from happening in our communities.”
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY):
“We all agree that we must find ways to control violent crime and keep guns out of the hands of criminals. This can be done by enforcing the laws already in place. We must look at ways to address the mental health issues that contribute to gun violence in America.
“Once again, President Obama is more concerned with his legacy than with the rights of law-abiding citizens. I will work to block this and any other action that threatens our Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO):
“Clearly, there’s nowhere in the Constitution that says, if the Congress fails to act, if democracy doesn’t produces the result the president wants, then the president can produce whatever result he wants to produce,” he says.
Blunt says executive orders and executive “over-reach” will be a big issue in the presidential campaign. [KMOX, St. Louis]
Notice how all of them say the actions are unconstitutional (in classic Mitch fashion, McConnell merely speculates about the constitutionality). However, they never mention fighting against the executive action and leveraging everything they have against it so it will not stand. Even their rhetorical jabs are really weak. No wonder Obama has nothing to fear.
The only major player to mention the power of the purse is Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) who is the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department. He promised to block funding for the relevant DOJ agencies if the order is not reversed. That is lovely, but there is just one problem: Congress already gave away the deterrent of defunding agencies until October, something the entire conservative movement warned would happen.
And guess what? John Culberson voted for that omnibus bill, even though Obama already promised more executive action on immigration, guns, and energy policy. They declined to even pass a short-term CR, which would have kept the funding fight alive for now.
Instead of promising to block all judicial nominees for the remainder of Obama’s presidency, which they should be doing anyway, Senate Republicans now plan to confirm leftist Luis Felipe Restrepo to be a judge for the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals as their first vote of 2016.
This is a teachable moment. The Second Amendment is one of the few issues where all Republicans agree in principle to the same values. Yet even on an issue where establishment Republicans agree with us they will never rise to the occasion and confront the given challenge in a meaningful way.
Obama is violating the sovereignty of the people and this nation with new executive action on immigration and guns. He is even spying on Congress itself. A true alternative party would refuse to cooperate on any new legislation, block all nominees, and of course, would have reserved the power of the purse.
They would disinvite Obama from delivering the State of the Union until he comes clean on the details of his spying activities. As it relates to standalone legislation, they would provide a bold contrast by voting on bills to institute universal constitutional carry and abolish the ATF (Rep. Sensenbrenner has a bill that would do the latter, H. R. 1329), not just mealy-mouthed bills.
Once again, Democrats are seeking a revolution and fundamental transformation of our nation while Republicans are seeking office as an ends to itself.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.