National Press Club

Lincoln and Truman also used the executive power Obama claims on immigration, Clyburn says

November 20, 2014 | By Bob Weiner and Evan Baumel |

Rep. Jim Clyburn speaks at a Nov. 20 Club Newsmaker.

Rep. Jim Clyburn speaks at a Nov. 20 Club Newsmaker.

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration relies on the same powers previously exercised by such chief executives as Abraham Lincoln and Harry S Truman, the No. 3 House Democrat told a Club Newsmaker Nov. 20

Assistant Democratic Leader Jim Clyburn of South Carolina said the actions of Lincoln and Truman refuted arguments that Obama was acting “lawlessly” and “unconstitutionally” on immigration. Clyburn said that when Lincoln drew up the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery and when Truman ordered and end to segregation in the armed services, these actions were also “beyond the law” at the time but were within the meaning and parameters of the Constitution.

Speaking a few hours before Obama spoke to the nation on immigration, Clyburn said he was “pleased that the president is moving on this" and was "using the executive order to do big things.”

He said he hoped another government shutdown would not take place, though was concerned that House Republicans would again seek to impeach a Democratic president, as they did Bill Clinton.

"An element within the Republican Party would love to see this president go down in history with an asterisk next to his name," Clyburn said. "That’s what this is all about.”

He attributed the Republican wins in the Nov. 4 congressional elections to “my party spending too much time apologizing for being Democrats. We seem to feel that there is something wrong for being known as the party for the little guy, the party that addresses middle income issues.”

Democrats should have said they were “proud” of their accomplishments, Clyburn said. “I am proud that my party did Social Security. I am proud of the fact that my party gave us Medicare and Medicaid.”

The 2014 election was like a “pendulum on the clock," he said. “The country moved right this year. I believe that if the voters intervene as I hope they will, then we will go back to the left in two years."

When asked about the problems in Ferguson, Missouri, Clyburn said the unrest and the actions against African Americans in the first place “would never happen” except for a “disproportionate police force with only two African Americans in a 60-70 percent African American community.”