Setting up another confrontation with President Barack Obama, House Republicans are finalizing a plan to block funding for federal agencies tasked with implementing the President’s immigration executive action, with the intent of nullifying President Barack Obama’s moves around Congress.
The emerging plan, worked out with GOP members Friday, would add several provisions that would roll back the executive order the President announced in November to a nearly $40 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
House Republican leaders agreed to a strategy pushed by House conservatives who want to use their chief power – the power over the purse – to force changes in the President’s immigration policies, which they argue are unconstitutional. Many expected the spending bill debate to reignite the fight over the most recent action Obama took to allow roughly 5 million undocumented workers in the country to stay. But the latest plan is much broader and reaches back to try and nullify other executive actions taken by the Obama Administration in the last several years.
After a series of meetings with GOP members pushing various proposals, Republican leaders decided to allow separate votes on amendments pushed that repeal or change the Administration’s immigration laws. These would be added to the Homeland Security spending bill. That agency runs out of money at the end of February.
One amendment blocks the ability of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to spend any of the fees it collects to hand out new work permits.
Another amendment would roll back the president’s 2012 executive order that defers deportations of children, a program known as “DACA” (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
The House Republican plan would include a separate vote on a measure that makes it a high priority for enforcement agencies to deport criminals, specifically those who are classified as sex offenders. It changes some guidance that was issued in 2011 by the former head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We’re starting with a conservative standpoint,” Alabama GOP Rep Robert Aderholt told reporters, saying he and others were pleased leaders agreed to include the full range of ways to push back on the president’s executive actions.
But California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham told reporters he was unhappy about the decision to add a provision that could affect children in the country illegally.
“We’ve got to deal with immigration as a whole, reforming our system across the nation – just picking on these children that came here through no fault of their own – I think it the wrong way to start,” Denham said.
Top House Republican leaders met behind closed doors with several members to discuss various proposals and plan to unveil their legislation on Friday. House Republicans are meeting Friday morning to discuss the plan, according to two House GOP leadership aides.
A vote is targeted for Tuesday, before House and Senate Republicans head to a joint retreat in Pennsylvania.
Alabama Rep. Robert Aderholt told reporters he discussed his proposal with House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers and other leaders Thursday. It would not only void the president’s executive order, but also any future executive orders on immigration and bars any fees that the USCIS collects from being spent on operations to carry out the President’s policies.
Some congressional Republicans pushed to attach a similar plan to last year’s spending bill. But because the USCIS is self-funded through the fees it collects and doesn’t need Congress to approve them, many – including Rogers – argued it would be difficult to stop that agency’s flow of money.
But Rogers told reporters on Thursday he expected to see “an amendment that would change the basic law in order to give Congress jurisdiction of the fees.”
House Republicans are likely to be able to pass this type of proposal next week, but it then faces an uphill battle in the Senate where Republicans must get the half a dozen Democratic votes to overcome a likely filibuster from Democratic leaders. Even if the Senate can pass the bill, the president is likely to veto it.
So far the House GOP discussions have not charted a strategy for what happens when this proposal doesn’t get the support to pass in the Senate.
“We have to think about the next step is going to be…..that’s what we’re going to talk about at the retreat next week.” Rep Raul Labrador of Idaho told reporters Friday.
The Department of Homeland Security runs out of funds at the end of February, so There is some time for the process to play out on Capitol Hill. But Democrats are already pointing out that at a time when the focus is on the terror attack in Paris it is critical the agency’s budget not be at risk.
“House Republicans have decided to threaten a partial government shutdown and play politics with the security of our homeland by appeasing the anti-immigrant and extreme right-wing of their Party,” Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Ted Barrett contributed to this report.