Boehner Rounding Up Democratic Votes for Spending MeasureHeidi Przybyla and Erik Wasson
House Republican leaders are close to a deal to keep the U.S. government open this month by seeking Democratic votes and considering concessions for members fuming over President Barack Obama’s immigration orders.
House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are working to persuade enough Democrats and members of their own party to support a two-step approach to renew most government spending through September 2015, said several members of both parties, including lawmakers opposing the plan.
“If the Democrats vote for it, and it appears they’re likely to vote for it, it will pass,” said Representative John Fleming of Louisiana, among the Republicans who want changes to the plan.
Leaders are considering a revision that would move up a fight over immigration funding to soon after Congress reconvenes in January, said a Republican aide familiar with the plan.
Representative Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat, said members of his party will join Boehner to overcome opposition among Republicans and pass a funding bill.
“When all is said and done, there will be Democratic votes,” Moran said.
In the first step, the House will cast a symbolic vote tomorrow against Obama’s Nov. 20 orders to ease deportation of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. The second step requires both chambers next week to pass a separate bill funding almost all of the federal government.
The strategy would be a victory for Boehner’s ability to navigate around the Tea Party wing of his conference after the November election. Republican insistence on using a government funding bill to challenge Obama’s immigration orders would be unlikely to pass the Democratic-led Senate.
Even if it did, Obama has said he would veto legislation that would block his immigration orders. Congress must pass funding legislation by Dec. 11 or risk a partial government shutdown. A Republican bid to defund Obamacare led to a 16-day shutdown in October 2013.
Under the approach, the Department of Homeland Security, with primary responsibility for immigration policy, would be funded only into March 2015.
Some opponents of Boehner’s approach, including Fleming, want that funding to expire in January so the new Republican-controlled Congress can defund the parts of that agency tasked with carrying out Obama’s orders. Boehner may give a nod to conservatives by agreeing to move the date to February, according to the Republican aide.
Obama said today he was encouraged by statements from Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about preventing another shutdown, “and I take them at their word.”
“The one thing I can say for certain is that no one benefits by the government shutting down,” the president told members of the Business Roundtable in Washington.
Still, some Republicans in Congress are insisting on an immediate fight over Obama’s immigration orders by holding up funding for immigration agencies starting next week.
At a news conference, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said passing a symbolic bill against the deportation orders would be a “meaningless show vote.”
Cruz, who led the drive for the 2013 shutdown, said Congress should pass a short-term spending bill that would add language blocking Obama’s immigration orders to funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.
Cruz also said the Senate should block confirmations for all non-national security presidential appointments.
Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican and co-founder of the chamber’s Tea Party caucus, joined with Cruz in calling for the House to pass a short-term funding bill to block implementation of Obama’s immigration orders.
“The power of the purse is one of the tools Congress has to rein in an out-of-control executive,” Lee said in an e-mailed statement.
Boehner of Ohio told reporters yesterday that Republicans “have limited options and limited abilities” to act directly on immigration. He said lawmakers are considering “a variety of options” for action this month and next year.
Momentum shifted in favor of Boehner’s approach yesterday as Democrats signaled they’d be willing to back him.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would be open to it if Republican leaders can gather enough House votes to advance it. It would be a “big accomplishment” to fund most of the government for the rest of the fiscal year, said the Nevada Democrat.
Reid said the Senate won’t take up the other House bill, H.R. 5759, which would deny the president authority to protect undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from deportation.
Boehner’s plan is designed to avert a shutdown, restore the process of passing annual spending bills and let Republicans reopen the debate over immigration next year when they control both chambers.
The plan would give Republicans more time next year to vote on other priorities, including ending a medical-device tax that helps fund Obamacare, approving the Keystone oil pipeline and strengthening Obama’s trade negotiating ability.
The air of compromise contrasts with 2013, when at least 80 House Republicans signed a letter demanding to attach language defunding Obamacare to a government spending bill.
Obama announced Nov. 20 that he would temporarily halt deportations for about 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. His directive will defer for three years the deportation of people who came to the U.S. as children as well as parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents.
The Department of Homeland Security will streamline the visa process for foreign workers and their employers and give high-skilled workers more flexible work authorization.
Even if lawmakers agree in principle on the proposal, disagreements between Republicans and Democrats over environment and tax policy provisions still could derail it.
Republican Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho said provisions sought by members of his party include blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and barring the EPA from regulating small bodies of water.
The House also has proposed limiting the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to impose tax penalties under Obamacare.
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