Hinting that a decision on his presidential ambitions is coming "in short order," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday condemned President Barack Obama's recent immigration order for going "way beyond" what other presidents have done — including Bush's own father.
Bush, the son of one president and brother of another, also reiterated his support for a pathway to legal status for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, but said Obama may have exceeded his constitutional authority by unilaterally lifting the threat of deportation from millions of such immigrants last month.
"The idea that, well, Reagan did it, my dad did it — they did it on a much smaller scale and they did it with consent of Congress. There are a lot of differences," Bush said Monday night at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, an invitation-only event in Washington featuring some of the nation's most powerful CEOs.
Obama's move "makes it harder" for Congress to adopt lasting immigration reform, Bush said, speaking publicly about the order for the first time. "It's a shame."
Bush’s comments came before Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s appearance Tuesday before the House Homeland Security Committee in which he is expected to defend the president’s action on immigration.
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It will be the first testimony by a member of the administration on the topic since Obama announced plans two weeks ago to shield some 4 million immigrants here illegally from deportation and offer them work permits. The action applies to people who've been in the country more than five years and have kids who are citizens or green card holders.
"The reality is that, given our limited resources, these people are not priorities for removal. It's time we acknowledge that and encourage them to be held accountable," Johnson said in prepared testimony. "This is simple common sense."
His testimony came as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill from a weeklong Thanksgiving break still divided on how to stop Obama.
The issue is tied in with the need to pass a government funding bill by Dec. 11, or risk a shutdown. Conservatives have been agitating to use any government funding bill to block Obama's moves, but Republican Party leaders fear that could result in a veto by Obama and a subsequent government shutdown, a scenario they are determined to avoid.
Instead, some lawmakers are pushing a different approach: a full-year spending bill for most government agencies, combined with a shorter-term measure for departments that deal with immigration.
But conservatives want more and circulated bill language Monday stipulating that no money or fees "may be used by any agency to implement, administer, enforce or carry out any of the policy changes" announced by Obama. They hope to include it in any upcoming must-pass spending bill, forcing a confrontation with Senate Democrats and potentially Obama.
All agreed they must stop Obama after November midterm elections where they retook control of the Senate and increased their majority in the House.
"The president's decision to bypass Congress and grant amnesty to millions of unlawful immigrants is unconstitutional and a threat to our democracy," the Homeland Security Committee chairman, Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement. "I will use every tool at my disposal to stop the president's unconstitutional actions from being implemented, starting with this oversight hearing."
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