With President Barack Obama set to announce executive orders that could grant work permits to as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, "he's coming off like he's a dictator or king," Sen. Orrin Hatch told Newsmax on Wednesday.
"He has a right to do whatever he wants to do, but he doesn't have a legal right to do what he wants to do," the Utah Republican, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview. "These are important issues — and it should unnerve every citizen that we have a president who, in some respects, is out of control."
While the Senate's longest-serving GOP member told Newsmax that he would give Obama "the benefit of the doubt" pending his Thursday announcement, "the preliminary indications are that he's going to give legal status to millions of people."
"That is not a power that a president should have or does have," Hatch said. "In a way, I think he's just sticking his thumb in the eyes of everybody in this country."
In a prime-time televised speech scheduled from the White House, Obama plans to announce
his long-awaited unilateral actions that could grant work permits and defer deportation for as many as 5 million illegal immigrants.
Obama's remarks will be televised only by cable networks, including Fox News, CNN and Univision — the Spanish-language channel. The three major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, and NBC — are not planning to air the speech.
On Friday, Obama will provide more specifics at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, which has a large number of non-English-speaking students. The president unveiled his blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform there in 2013.
The president's plans are expected to not include a path to citizenship — and they would make illegals ineligible for federal benefits, including Obamacare tax credits. The orders could be revoked, however, by a new president in two years.
The deportation deferrals would be expanded to parents and spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for five years. The president also is expected to broaden the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that he created in 2012 to protect illegals who were brought to the United States as children.
"What I'm going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem," Obama said in a video on Facebook.
Laying the groundwork for his orders, Obama met with 18 Democrats from the House and Senate over dinner at the White House on Wednesday. No GOP members were invited.
Republicans have vehemently opposed the president's immigration plans since he vowed to take action in a celebrated Rose Garden speech in May. He postponed the move until after the Nov. 4 elections because of Democrats' fears of losing the Senate along with seats in the House.
Still, the Democrats suffered a blistering defeat in the elections, with the Republicans retaking the Senate and gaining the most House seats since World War II.
In a meeting with House and Senate leaders the next day, Obama vowed to act unilaterally on immigration by the end of the year.
He immediately came under fire by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will replace Democratic Sen. Harry Reid as majority leader when the new Congress convenes in January.
Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman, slammed "Emperor Obama" on Wednesday on news of the planned speech. He said the executive orders would "cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue — and many others."
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, long opposed to immigration reform, was among other Republicans who extended the "emperor" meme Wednesday. He charged that Obama's orders would "provide illegal immigrants with the exact benefits Congress has repeatedly rejected: Social Security numbers, photo IDs and work permits.
"This will allow them to now take jobs directly from struggling Americans in every occupation," said Sessions, who will chair the Senate Budget Committee in January. "Congress must not allow this unconstitutional action."
Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that "the egregious use of executive action and rule by fiat is bad enough, but knowing that undocumented criminals continue to be released into communities, even this past year, and could still remain in the country is outrageous."
Noting reports that tens of thousands of illegal criminals
have been released nationwide despite being classified as deportation priorities by the Department of Homeland Security, Grassley said the agency has "released murderers and domestic abusers from its custody."
"Why would anyone trust this administration going forward?" he asked.
Sessions has urged Republicans to use the budget process to keep the federal government running while defunding any programs that could implement Obama's orders. The government is financed through Dec. 11 — and the senator has called for approving enough money to keep things running through January.
Meanwhile, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said in a column for Politico
that the new Congress should refuse to confirm any Obama nominee "executive or judicial — outside of vital national security positions, so long as the illegal amnesty persists."
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks raised the specter of impeaching the president on Wednesday, a move Hatch and GOP leaders said would not occur once the party controls Congress.
"I don't think anybody's talking about impeachment for real," Hatch told Newsmax. "Let's face it, some radicals will raise issues like that.
"Some people think the president is deliberately poking Congress in the eye so that some of the more radical Republicans will talk about impeachment, which everybody knows the Democrats in the Senate are not going to support. It's crazy to even talk about it."
He also dismissed talk of closing down the government. A 16-day partial government shutdown last year cost U.S. taxpayers $1.4 billion.
"I don't think anybody wants a shutdown. I don't know of any Republican who wants a shutdown. We can work these matters out.
"You always have one or two radicals who will try to do something like that," Hatch added. "Our job is to make government work, not shut it down. We should all be working together to make it work."
But the GOP must respond to the president's actions, Hatch said.
"I don't think we have to just walk away and let him get away with it," he told Newsmax. "We have to look at it. If it's within the power of the president, then it's another matter.
"If the primary indications prove to be true, it looks to me like he's going way too far and Congress should do whatever it can to make it clear to the American people that this should not be allowed to stand."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.