Independent Maine Sen. Angus King said it would be a “big mistake” for President Obama to push immigration reform through using executive action.
But King said Obama doing so wouldn’t be enough to change his caucus allegiance to the majority GOP in the 114th Congress.
“Caucusing is who you have lunch with on Tuesdays. Caucusing isn’t joining the Republicans or joining the Democrats. You don’t sign an oath or anything else,” King told CNN. “I decided yesterday it was best for Maine for me to caucus with the Democrats. It puts — we have one senator in the Republican, one in the Democratic caucus; one in the Republican Party, one in the caucus that represents the president. I think that’s good for Maine.”
King was the 43rd most liberal senator in 2013, according to National Journal’s vote ratings.
“But I’m going to do what I’ve done all along, which is call them as I see them on an issue-by-issue basis,” King said. “But I’ve got to tell you, and I’ve communicated this to the White House last summer, and it wasn’t about the elections. It wasn’t postpone doing something until after the elections. My position is, you know, the Constitution doesn’t say if the Congress fails to act, then the president can do X, Y and Z. It just doesn’t say that.”
King said “if LBJ and Jack Kennedy had tried to do the Civil Rights Act unilaterally, I think it would have taken five or ten more years in the Congress to get it through,” so Obama acting on immigration reform “would set the cause back.”
“I think Mitch McConnell was right. It would be waving a red flag in front of a bull…. I think it would inflame the country.”
Still, King said if Congress doesn’t act, “it’s the president’s job to figure out how to move them in that direction.”
“There’s a little selective memory here, or selective choice of issues on some. Ebola is a good example where, you know, the Republicans are saying, the president shouldn’t act unilaterally on immigration, and too many executive orders. And then they’re saying, ‘But wait a minute, we want the government to come in and start locking people up and quarantining them.’ You know it’s a kind of — there’s a kind of a mixed message there,” the senator continued.
“The war is a place where Congress has a specific constitutional responsibility that we’ve been ducking, frankly, for something like 50 years, and it’s time to reassert that. I think, you know, it’s the old sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander argument.”