Opinion writer

So today House Republicans may take one more stab at trying to pass a bill to address the border crisis. But their bill has been jacked so far to the right that Dems won’t support it, and at any rate, last night Republicans blocked the Senate Dem border proposal. So Congress won’t address the crisis until September at the earliest.

The question now is how far this goes in clearing space for Obama to act alone on immigration — not just on the border crisis, but on easing deportations. And the president is letting Republicans know that they should be worried about this. The New York Times reports on this key private exchange between Obama and a GOP Senator:

In a meeting with lawmakers on Thursday to discuss foreign policy, Mr. Obama told Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, that he agreed with Republicans on 80 percent of the elements of the border legislation but disagreed on an important 20 percent: whether to offset the money and how to alter a 2008 law to allow American authorities to more quickly deport unaccompanied children, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The president said Republicans would have to think long and hard about why they would not act on the areas of consensus, the official added. The result, Mr. Obama said, is that he would have to act over the congressional recess to redirect funding in ways they would not like.

This probably will entail shifting more resources from interior enforcement to the border. Republicans are already furious over Obama’s de-prioritization of deportations from the interior, even though that has actually directed resources toward the border, and they are wary of his coming unilateral action to expand that approach. Meanwhile, they objected to Obama’s request for border funding because it spent too much on humanitarian relief for arriving migrants. So it seems likely any further moves in this direction — whether on funding shifts or on expanding deportation relief — will further inflame them.

And this underscores a key fact about this whole debate: It is precisely because Republicans won’t move out of their comfort zone on immigration — where the only response to the immigration crisis they can entertain is further militarizing of the border and expedited/expanded deportations — that Obama is now going to resort to more action on his own.

If Republicans had passed immigration reform that included some form of legal status for the 11 million, it would have wiped away the need for Obama’s deferred-deportation program and we wouldn’t even be talking about expanding it, meaning no need for Republicans to fear more Obummer Lawlessness. Reform would have spent more on border security and helped unclog the courts, speeding the removal of arriving migrants — which Republicans support. If it had passed — or if Republicans gave him the money he’s asked for to deal with the current crisis — we would not be talking about him acting alone to shift more resources from interior enforcement to the border, either.

No question, the politics of Obama’s coming executive action are dicey for Democrats. But Dems can bolster their position by contrasting unilateral problem solving with GOP inaction on the border — including the fact that they would not act because they want ever more deportations from the interior — and on immigration reform in general. But don’t take my word for it. Listen to what this Texas Republican has to say about the House GOP caucus:

“You can’t go home!” Rep. Blake Farenthold shouted in an interview…He suggested such a move would send a terrible message to Obama: “You’re right, we’re a do-nothing Congress.”

This is exactly what Dems will be arguing.


* ANOTHER DECENT JOBS REPORT: The July numbers are in:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 209,000 in July, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 6.2 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today…The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for May was revised from 224,000 to 229,000, and the change for June was revised from 288,000 to 298,000.

Danny Vinik: “this report shouldn’t change anyone’s current view of the economy. Slow, steady job growth continues.”

* GOP MODERATES FURIOUS OVER TANKING OF BORDER BILL: The Post overview of the collapse of the House GOP border bill includes this striking nugget:

The retreat sparked panic among GOP moderates, who have felt marginalized and bullied during years of warfare with a small but influential tea party caucus. In a remarkable scene Thursday ­afternoon, angry rank-and-file members rushed to the House floor to surround Boehner and his newly installed majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, waving their arms and jabbing their fingers as they demanded a vote.

Presumably, House Democrats will try to use the border bill fiasco against vulnerable moderate House Republicans, linking it to the GOP lawsuit to make the case that the GOP is hostage to dysfunctional and destructive governing.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, GOP-POST-POLICY EDITION: With House Republicans yesterday shelving their response to the border crisis because it wouldn’t pass the House, GOP Rep. Peter King spells out the stakes for his own party:

“It’s very important we show we’re a governing party,” he said. “It’s bad enough we shut the government down last year.”

The driving force behind both of these debacles, of course, is House Speaker Ted Cruz, whose quest to demonstrate the GOP’s inability to govern appears to be carrying the day.

* RISING GOP RAGE AT TED CRUZ: Now that Cruz has prevailed, tanking the House GOP border bill, Robert Costa has a good report on the turmoil inside the House GOP conference over immigration, including this:

When asked what they thought of Cruz’s meddling, Boehner associates were livid as usual — off the record — but timid about it. Ever since last year’s federal government shutdown, when Cruz broke with Boehner and became a hero to grass-roots activists, there has been intensifying ire toward Cruz but a general reluctance to challenge the right’s new star.

Well, okay, Boehner aides are very angry at Ted Cruz. But as Ed Kilgore explains, these differences are all over tactics. Their overall positions on what to do about the immigration crisis are not materially different from one another.

* GOP BLOCKS BORDER BILL IN SENATE: Late yesterday, Republicans successfully blocked the Senate Democratic bill to address the border crisis, and while a couple Dems joined with the GOPers, this is the key takeaway:

The GOP opposed the proposal, written by Democrats, in part because they were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, from offering amendments, including an attempt by [Senator Jeff] Sessions to prohibit President Barack Obama from issuing a new executive order Sessions has labeled “administrative amnesty.”

As always, some Republicans are simply unwilling to do anything to address the border crisis that doesn’t also provide for maximum deportations from the interior.

* POLL SHOWS PERCEPTIONS OF ECONOMY IMPROVING: A new CNN poll shows that the percentage of Americans who rate economic conditions as “good” has steadily risen this year to the highest point of the Obama presidency. While that number is still only 41-58, if the trend continues, it could conceivably shift the overall political environment — even just marginally — in ways that make it slightly easier for embattled Senate Dem incumbents to hang on.

* AND OBAMACARE REPEAL REMAINS UNPOPULAR: The new Kaiser tracking poll for July finds that there has been a spike in unfavorable opinions of Obamacare, but support for repeal — the position of every 2014 GOP candidate — is at 35 percent. Republicans are the only group who favors repeal; a majority of Americans and independents wants Congress to work to improve the law.

Also: Health care has dropped to the bottom of the list of issues voters care about. So: Despite high disapproval, the public wants to keep the law and wants to move on from this debate. Really, nobody could have predicted that would happen.