Republicans on Capitol Hill on Tuesday praised a federal judge’s ruling to put the brakes on President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, but the ruling doesn’t immediately appear to settle the political standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security.
Instead, Republicans say the ruling has united and emboldened them to stand firmly by their strategy of tying funding for the homeland security agency to efforts to kill Obama’s executive action, and urged Senate Democrats who have blocked those efforts to heed the ruling.
“Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.
Obama immigration order temporarily halted by Texas judge
Boehner again repeated his claim that Obama took his executive action despite saying “22 times” before that he had no authority to take such action unilaterally. Obama had said he could not act unilaterally on immigration reform, but Democrats have argued the President was not referring to the type of actions he ultimately took.
The Obama administration said in a statement Tuesday that Obama’s executive actions “are well within his legal authority” and that the Justice Department has indicated “that it will appeal that decision.”
President Barack Obama said Tuesday he’s confident that a Texas court’s injunction against his executive order delaying deportations for millions of immigrants will ultimately be overruled, and is preparing to implement the order under that assumption.
“The Department of Homeland Security will continue with the planning because we want to make sure that as soon as these legal issues get resolved — which I anticipate they will, in our favor — that we are ready to go,” he told reporters.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the ruling just an “interim step” in a legal process that will take some time to play out.
“This is a decision by one federal district court judge,” Holder said Tuesday at the National Press Club, adding that the Justice Department is reviewing the ruling to determine the next step.
And Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement Tuesday he “strongly” disagrees with the judge’s decision, but said his department would comply with the injunction while awaiting the results of an appeal.
His department was slated to begin accepting applications for the DACA expansion Wednesday.
Boehner said on Fox News Sunday that he was willing to let the agency go unfunded. The deadline to fund the department is Feb. 27.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who indicated last week that the House bill had no path forward in the Senate because of Democratic obstruction, urged his Democratic colleagues in a statement Tuesday to take note of the federal ruling and change course.
“Senate Democrats – especially those who’ve voiced opposition to the President’s executive overreach — should end their partisan filibuster of Department of Homeland Security funding,” McConnell said.
It’s unclear how the federal judge’s ruling will affect public opinion, but a CNN/ORC poll conducted before the decisions revealed that a majority of Americans would blame GOP lawmakers if the Department of Homeland Security shuts down. According to the poll, published Tuesday, 30% said they would blame Obama.
A leading hardliner on the issue, Texas’s Sen. Ted Cruz, also appeared emboldened by the verdict, calling it a “major turning point in the fight.”
“The Senate Democrats who are filibustering Department of Homeland Security funding should look hard at this ruling. At a time when we face grave national security threats, at home and abroad, it is the height of irresponsibility for the Democrats to block this funding in an extreme attempt to save Obama’s amnesty, which a federal judge has just declared illegal,” Cruz said in a statement.
Cruz, who is building up a political operation as he weighs a presidential run, is among the group of conservatives in the House and Senate urging Republican leaders not to waver as the deadline to fund the homeland security agency nears.
What happens if DHS shuts down?
Democrats were showing no signs of giving up on their side of the fight as of Tuesday morning. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi didn’t turn to the DHS funding battle in her statement Tuesday, instead focusing on the U.S. District court’s decision that she said “erroneously blocks” Obama’s actions on immigration.
She added that she is “confident” an appeal will succeed, echoing the White House in calling Obama’s actions “well within the clear constitutional and legal authority of his office.”
“The Department of Justice, legal and immigration experts, and history support the President’s executive actions – and the U.S. District Court decision erroneously blocks the President from taking steps to fix our broken immigration system in a manner that is consistent with previous presidents, strengthens our economy, keeps communities safe, and honors our values,” Pelosi said. “How sad for our impacted DREAMers and their families, how necessary it is for an immediate appeal of this ruling.”
Georgia Congressman Doug Collins, who spoke by phone with CNN on Tuesday, said the ruling bolsters House Republicans who continue to push the Senate to take up their bill that blocks the president’s executive actions. “It gives more credence to what we are doing is within the bounds of the Constitution.”
Collins said he favors two tracks - the states challenging the actions in the courts and Congress using the legislative process to block funding so the Obama Administration cannot implement the immigration policies.
“This is not going to stop the legislative process- the Senate still needs to do their job.” Collins said, saying Senate Democrats need to allow a debate on the House-passed bill.
Collins warned that those who Republicans who might want to allow a so-called “clean” DHS funding bill to let this play out in the judicial branch “don’t understand the courts process” and said “this issue is not over.” Collins hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would take up this issue, but admitted he wasn’t confident that would happen.
Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action, a conservative group pressing congressional Republicans to block the president’s executive order, urged GOP members on Capitol Hill to continue pressing ahead with their strategy. He maintained that grassroots activists who oppose the president’s immigration actions are skeptical that the courts will ultimately nullify the executive orders.
“It’s not something that would sell to conservatives who are fuming over individual mandate decision,” Holler said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision that upheld Obamacare in 2012.
CNN’s Evan Perez and Ted Barrett contributed to this report.