NEW: House voted 219-197 to approve bill targeting Obama's immigration order
The largely political bill is not expected to go anywhere in the Senate
The bill offers those frustrated at the President to publicly vent about his immigration plans
Congress is facing a deadline next week to avoid a government shutdown
A week before a possible government shutdown, the House of Representatives spent time on a Republican bill that doesn’t fund any federal agencies, and even its supporters admit is already dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate.
House Republican leaders are still building support for their spending bill, and are eying a vote next week – potentially Dec. 11, the same day as the deadline when agencies run out of funds. But as time is running out to avoid a potential crisis, the House voted Thursday to back a measure that’s designed to let GOP opponents of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration vent their frustrations.
The “Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act” was drafted by Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho. It states that the executive branch of government does not have the authority to stop deportations of certain categories of undocumented workers in the United States. It cleared the House in a 219-197 vote that was almost entirely along party lines.
But this bill can’t undo what the President has done, and even those conservatives who voted for it say it’s simply a messaging bill to assert Congress’ role in passing new laws.
Many House conservatives have been pressing Speaker John Boehner to go further in responding to the President’s immigration policy, insisting that the House strip away any money in the annual government spending bill so it can prevent the Administration from carrying out its plans.
But Boehner and other GOP leaders don’t want to risk another shutdown, after the one last fall inflicted major political damage to the party. Instead Republican leaders argue that a vote on this separate bill puts the House on record, and positions them to fight back against the President’s executive orders next year, when the GOP controls both the House and the Senate.
Those hardliners who want to use the spending bill as leverage in the immigration fight say they back anything that disapproves of the President’s actions. But it’s not enough for them to get on board with the leaders’ plan to postpone any fight using the legislative branch’s power of the purse until next year.
Republican Rep. Mark Sanford of South Carolina called the bill “important first step” but said he was still not satisfied.
“Is this enough? Ultimately no, I think ultimately we need to defund the president’s ability to move forward,” Sanford argued on the House floor.
Boehner appeared confident Thursday that his spending proposal would pass, and predicted at his weekly press conference it would get bipartisan support.
The Speaker waved off making any changes to address concerns of conservatives. In what appeared to be a shot back at those GOP members who Boehner said were “griping” about the funding bill, he said “this was their idea of how to proceed.”
Democrats denounced the bill and called it a waste of time. Over and over Democrats called on House Republicans to bring up bipartisan immigration legislation for a vote.
Obama said at a college summit Thursday that the House GOP bill would “force talented young people … to leave our country.”
“It does not make sense for us to want to push talent out rather than make sure that they’re staying here and contributing to society,” he said. “Rather than deport students and separate families and make it harder for law enforcement to do its job, I just want Congress to work with us to fix a broken immigration system.”
Standing next to a life size poster for former Republican President Ronald Reagan in the House chamber, Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez defended Obama’s action and compared what he did last month to action that Reagan signed in the 1980s.
“They didn’t call Ronald Reagan a tyrant, they didn’t call him lawless. Yet he said ‘I would protect a million and a half undocumented people’ that you call illegal. He protected them,” Gutierrez said.
Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz Balart was one of seven House Republicans to oppose the bill. He told reporters he agrees with his GOP colleagues that the President didn’t have the authority to act on his own, but he believes the proper response is to start working on immigration proposals to fix the system.
“There is only way to do this- we have to pass legislation to deal with the issue,” Diaz-Balart said, adding that the current immigration system “remains absolutely in a shambles.”
Eric Bradner contributed to this report.