The Democratic leader accuses GOP foes of having very short memories when it comes to executive action.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is drawing a parallel between President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and President Obama's planned executive actions on immigration reform.
"Does the public know the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order?" Pelosi asked at a news conference Thursday morning.
Pelosi raised the notion as she was fending off questions about warnings from congressional Republican that Obama could be about to overstep his bounds, both politically and legally.
Obama is scheduled to deliver a prime-time address on his plans Thursday night, and he will head to Las Vegas for a Friday speech on the topic. Pelosi said she will be traveling with Obama to Nevada.
Like other Democrats and immigration-reform advocates, Pelosi has been insisting that what Obama is about to do in offering legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants is nothing more than what other presidents—from Dwight Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush—did, the latter two in deferring the removal of certain immigrants.
But on Thursday, Pelosi elevated her argument a novel step—reminding listeners that Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was an executive order. It declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
House Republicans on Thursday continued circling their wagons as they tried to come up with a response, with some suggesting that what the president is planning to announce will include actions not authorized by law.
Some Republicans say that defunding certain aspects of government operations that would be needed to carry out the actions is one way Congress could react, or that legal actions against the move could be taken.
A few opponents are suggesting even that censure or impeachment of the president should not be taken off of the table.
At the news conference, Pelosi and other Democrats dismissed claims that Republicans, having just won control of both the House and Senate for the session that begins in January, are right to argue that Obama should wait for the new Congress to take up immigration reform.
Rep. Louise Slaughter chimed in that, in her recollection, such an outcry did not happen when earlier presidents took such action.
"It's because it's Obama," she said.