After the 2012 elections, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, asked his team to complete what was dubbed an "autopsy report" to figure out how the party could turn around its political fortunes.
In that report, the authors concluded that if the next GOP presidential candidate were to have a chance of winning, the party "must embrace and champion comprehensive immigration reform.”
But on Friday morning, after the Republican Party won sweeping victories in the midterm election -- without having passed such comprehensive reform -- Priebus appeared to be backing away from that diagnosis.
At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, the RNC chairman said that President Barack Obama had politicized immigration policy to a point that Republicans would no longer support legislation without first being assured that the border was secure.
“What I think [the president] has done is unified the country and the electorate around one big principle and that’s that we need to secure the border,” said Priebus. “And he has created a situation that I think may have not existed before … that has galvanized the country [to] a place where I don’t believe most people are interested in comprehensive immigration reform unless they are convinced that the border is secure.”
The president, Priebus added, “has created an environment that will not allow the legislature to move forward unless people can be convinced that the border is secure. That’s where we’ve come. And I think it makes sense that there was a lot of talk about immigration reform, and now -- I think rightfully so -- we are talking about border security first before we get to anything else.”
Attaching border security as a precondition to comprehensive immigration reform is a mainstream Republican position. But it is a more hard-line position than what the pro-reform element of the party was agreeing to in early 2013. And the concept is generally at odds with the notion of “comprehensive reform,” which envisions border security and a pathway to citizenship being implemented at the same time.
Neither Obama nor congressional Democrats have indicated a willingness to move away from that dual-track approach. Now, after the election, the two sides appear to be moving even further apart, making the prospects for legislative action incredibly remote.
In that void, the president has said he will issue an executive action by the end of the year deferring deportations for some groups of undocumented citizens in the United States. Congressional Republicans have already warned that if Obama were to go forward with that, it would poison the well on immigration policy and other matters. Priebus called Obama's pledge “a nuclear threat to reject the basis of the separation of powers doctrine.”
“The Republicans will have to convene about whatever possible options we have to stop it, whether it be the courts, whether it will be legislation," Priebus said of the possibility that the president will go through with the executive action.
"I think those options will have to be explored."