POLITICS
12/03/2014 10:17 am ET Updated Dec 03, 2014

House Republicans Call Obama's Executive Actions On Immigration 'Unconstitutional'

House Republicans are not pleased with President Barack Obama's recent executive actions on immigration, and they devoted two hearings and several hours on Tuesday to making that point.

At separate meetings of the House's Homeland Security Committee and Judiciary Committee, GOP members called Obama's actions unconstitutional and dangerous, both to the country and the rule of law in general.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was questioned by the Homeland Security Committee. Some Republicans quickly mentioned their dislike of Obama's decision when they began talking; others emphasized their disagreement more creatively.

"What do you say to someone who believes the president took action to change the law?" Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked Johnson.

Johnson replied that the administration did not change the law, and rather acted within Obama's existing authority. Chaffetz brought out a video of Obama saying last week that he "took an action to change the law" on immigration. (White House spokesman Josh Earnest said later Tuesday that Obama was "speaking colloquially" when he said he had changed the law.)

"So you say he didn't change the law, but the president says he changed the law," Chaffetz said.

House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) called Obama's action a "power grab" and said it "undermines the principle that the people, not just one man, should be the ultimate decision makers in our country's most important political matters."

At the Judiciary Committee hearing later on Tuesday, Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) played a different video of Obama, one in which he says repeatedly over the years that he can't halt deportations without Congress.

"President Obama has just announced the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president," Goodlatte said in his opening statements. "He has declared unilaterally, that by his own estimation, almost 5 million unlawful immigrants will be free from the legal consequences of their lawless actions."

Later, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) held up a children's book titled "How Laws Are Made" to highlight his point that Obama shouldn't have gone around Congress.

"You know, fifth grade," Chabot quipped, as he hoisted the book.

But Democratic House members defended Obama's recent move.

"When President Obama spoke from the east wing of the White House two weeks ago, about the steps he would take to improve our broken immigration system, he was responding to loud and sustained calls for action from people all over the country," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said. "He can't change the law, but he can take certain actions within the law."

Watch the video above.

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