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In Texas, Obama Sets Stage To Answer 'Do-Nothing' Congress

Speaking about the need for congressional action on immigration, President Obama told a crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, on Thursday that he would "love it if the Republicans did stuff too."
Jack Plunkett
Speaking about the need for congressional action on immigration, President Obama told a crowd at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, on Thursday that he would "love it if the Republicans did stuff too."

Six years into his administration, President Obama has apparently not given up on the "hope" that was a major theme of his first run for president.

What else but undying optimism could explain the president's hope for the Texas congressional delegation expressed in his visit to their state this week?

Speaking of his conversation with Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in which the president asked the governor to lobby that delegation on behalf of the $3.7 billion in additional funding to address the border crisis, the president said:

"I urged the governor to talk to the Texas delegation, which is obviously at the heart of the Republican caucus both in the House and has great influence in the caucus in the Senate. If the Texas delegation is in favor of this supplemental — which, by the way, does not include some things that I know many of them object to around dealing with undocumented workers who have been in this country for quite some time — this is just a very narrow issue, this supplemental, in terms of dealing with the particular problem we have right now — if the Texas delegation is prepared to move, this thing can get done next week."

That has a snowball's chance in Houston of happening, of course. The influential Texas delegation members have made few statements suggesting that they are prepared to support the president's emergency funding request.

Instead, they blame the president for the crisis, saying his 2012 executive action that allowed some young people in the U.S. illegally to remain is a magnet for the surge. They also accuse him of not securing the border.

Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, reflected the view of other House Republicans in a statement Thursday:

"Yesterday President Obama stopped in Dallas, where he discussed the ongoing crisis at the border and his ideas for how to solve it. Unfortunately, the problem is one of his own doing, and his so-called solutions are not sufficient to put an end to this crisis. Instead of proposing productive solutions, President Obama has requested $3.7 billion to enforce policies that have not worked. Instead of throwing more money at the problem, we should solve our underlying problems at the border and put an end to this crisis once and for all."

The situation was no better on the other side of Capitol Hill. Sen. John Cornyn, second in the Senate's GOP hierarchy, has led GOP criticisms of Obama's decision to not visit the Texas border himself. Reacting to Obama's comments, Cornyn said: "Texans do not need a lecture from a man who refuses to even see the crisis firsthand. President Obama can fundraise and issue statements; Texans will work to solve the problem."

Texas' junior senator, Ted Cruz, also didn't say anything that would inspire the Obama administration's confidence in his support. "I would suggest the only response that will stop this humanitarian disaster is for President Obama to start enforcing the law, to stop promising amnesty ... " Cruz said on the Senate floor.

Obama, the pragmatist that he is, certainly knows that no amount of lobbying by Perry will get Republicans in Texas' congressional delegation to support his emergency funding request, especially given congressional Republicans' emphasis on cutting, not increasing, spending. So what's going on?

"Obama was trying to see if that kind of public pressure might shake them loose," said Bruce Buchanan, a University of Texas government professor. "I think he doesn't expect it [to lead the GOP to agree with him] any more than we do, but he thought it was worth a shot."

Buchanan says the Texas delegation has said repeatedly that they don't trust Obama to use the money well. He says he thinks the president understands the odds are against it, so he wanted to create a record of his costing out what it would take to address the problem and his offering a solution.

"Then he can make the case, as he's been doing, that he's dealing with a do-nothing Congress and that he will do whatever he can through executive action [to respond to the crisis]," he said.

On Thursday, during a speech on the economy in Austin, Obama served up a few lines to make that point: "You know, it is lonely, me just doing stuff. I'd love it if the Republicans did stuff too."

The president reiterated that sentiment further when he spoke of the Senate immigration bill that the House has refused to take up.

"The House Republicans, they haven't even called the bill. They don't even want to take a vote on the bill," Obama said. "They don't have enough energy or organization or I don't know what to just even vote no on the bill. And then they're mad at me for trying to do some things to make the immigration system work better. So it doesn't make sense."

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.