Senators don’t usually suffer from a shortage of opinions — and especially not Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But on Tuesday, McConnell said he wouldn’t take a firm position on President Obama’s decision to stop deporting illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.
McConnell said he would wait — until presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had taken a position first.
“I think we’re going to wait and see what governor Romney has to say, and we’re going to be discussing his views on this,” McConnell told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday. “I think many of us may have similar views. Others may not.”
McConnell said he was deferring to Romney because the former Massachusetts governor is “the leader of our party from now until November — and, we hope, beyond.”
But McConnell’s reticence also reflects broader confusion and division within the GOP over how to react to Obama’s move. Many Republicans have criticized Obama over how he made the change — saying that the president lacks the Constitutional authority to make this decision, or that his short-term solution will make a long-term solution to the same problem less likely.
But there has been greater division over how to react to the substance of Obama’s decision. Some Republicans have attacked Obama’s policy as a kind of back-door “amnesty” for illegal immigrants. Others have expressed support for some kind of measure that allows young people brought to the United States as children to stay.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), long a supporter of immigration reform and a close Romney ally, complained on Tuesday that Obama had not sought comprehensive immigration changes when Democrats held a majority in the House and Senate.
McCain said he believed that Romney likewise wants to do something to address the problem of children brought to the country illegally by their parents.
“I am confident that governor Romney is concerned about the plight of children who were brought here against their will. I am confident of that,” McCain said.
On Thursday, Romney will address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Florida. He is expected to make some broader statement about Obama’s decision then. So far, Romney has said he wants a “long-term solution,” but has not said what that would mean — other than to provide permanent residency to those who serve in the military.
“With regards to these kids who were brought in by their parents through no fault of their own, there needs to be a long-term solution so they know what their status is,” Romney said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last weekend.
Until Romney makes a more expansive statement on the issue, other Republicans risk taking a position that will later be rejected by their own party’s nominee. On Tuesday, McConnell seemed determined to stay on the safe side.
“We’re going to wait and see what he has to say about it,” he said, when a reporter pressed him again.
But, the reporter asked, why is it taking so long for the GOP to formulate a more detailed response to Obama’s decision.
“I’m going to give you the same answer I just did,” McConnell said. “We’re going to wait until we see what governor Romney has to say about this.”