Some Republicans Seek to Block Obama Immigration Orders

US President Barack Obama attends the East Asia Summit Plenary Session at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw on November 13, 2014.

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

A group of House and Senate Republicans want to use spending legislation to block President Barack Obama from easing immigration policies unilaterally, a mechanism the party used last year to shut down the government.

Obama has said he will use executive orders to revise immigration policy by the end of the year.

“There is a debate raging on,” said Representative Matt Salmon of Arizona, who has been pressing fellow Republicans to ensure that legislation to fund the government denies money for actions in a potential immigration executive order.

House Speaker John Boehner told party members today that he doesn’t want a federal shutdown, no matter what happens with a spending bill, said Representative Peter King of New York.

Salmon told reporters he agreed with Boehner that “nobody wants a shutdown.”

Republicans won the Senate majority in the Nov. 4 election. The next day, Obama said he wouldn’t back off from plans to issue an executive order on immigration.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is poised to be majority leader starting in January, and Boehner of Ohio have said unilateral action by Obama would poison relations and make compromise on immigration policy impossible.

Short-Term Bill

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, in line to become Budget Committee chairman, said he wants a short-term bill to finance the government when current funding expires Dec. 11. Then once Republicans take full control of Congress in January, they could try to use the next spending bill to bar the government from carrying out the president’s order.

An insistence on defunding Obamacare by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas led to a 16-day partial government shutdown in October 2013.

Because outgoing Senate Majority Leader Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is unlikely to accept long-term funding legislation that thwarts Obama’s orders, Congress may be headed toward a short-term funding bill to steer clear of another shutdown.

Salmon has gathered about 60 House Republicans’ signatures for a proposal barring federal funds for work permits and residency cards under a presidential executive order.

Purse Power

“The Congress has the power of the purse and should use it as a tool to prevent the president from implementing policies that are contrary to our laws and the desire of the American people,” Salmon wrote in a letter today to House Appropriations Committee leaders.

Some Republicans, including Senators Richard Shelby of Alabama and Susan Collins of Maine, said they prefer a long-term spending measure. Representative Tim Huelskamp, a Kansas Republican aligned with the Tea Party, said he thinks few House Republicans want a long-term bill.

Representative Ken Calvert, a California Republican and House Appropriations Subcommittee chairman, said negotiators continue to work on a measure that would fund the government through next September.

“We are going to have a family discussion on how to proceed,” Calvert said.

Executive Order

A drive to use spending bills to thwart presidential orders on immigration may prevent Boehner and McConnell from resolving government funding so they can focus on other issues in 2015. Republican leaders say they want to vote on items that could gain bipartisan support, including trade promotion authority and repeal of a medical device tax that helps fund Obamacare.

A spending fight over immigration would also be an early test of the ability of Tea Party-aligned lawmakers including Cruz to push the party’s leaders into confrontations with Democrats in the next Congress.

An order by Obama could include halting deportations of the parents of children brought to the U.S. illegally. Or it may be broader, covering many of the 11 million people included in a bill passed in June 2013 by the Democratic-led Senate.

Sessions and five other senators said in a letter to Reid that they will use “all procedural means necessary” to prevent Obama from taking unilateral action on immigration. The letter didn’t spell out specific proposed actions.

Signing the letter with Sessions were Cruz and Republican Senators Mike Crapo of Idaho, Pat Roberts of Kansas, David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Lee of Utah.

‘Bind’ Country

“Senator Reid shouldn’t be entitled to bind the country next year when we have got a new Congress,” Sessions, set to lead the Senate Budget Committee starting in January, told reporters yesterday in Washington.

In an opinion piece published in Politico, Sessions said his proposal would bar U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services from using funds and personnel to process visa applications from undocumented immigrants who would be allowed to stay under an executive order.

Shelby, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, said he would rather pass a long-term government financing measure.

“I think Obama is overreaching,” Shelby said. “I would fight hard against what he’s doing but I don’t want to shut down the government.”

Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, said it would be “unwise” of Republicans to use a spending bill to confront Obama over immigration. She said negotiations with House members on a long-term spending measure are proceeding well and that she hopes to have an outline by this weekend.

Collins said she opposed linking a spending bill to immigration and that she wanted a long-term measure.

“I certainly hope President Obama doesn’t issue the order but I view it as separate” from spending legislation, she said.

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