Republicans are charging ahead with their effort to block President Obama’s immigration executive actions, teeing up a House vote as early as next week as they move toward a major confrontation with the administration.
GOP House leaders huddled Thursday with colleagues in an effort to build consensus on a bill to “defund” the president’s initiatives. Under the recently struck budget deal, the Department of Homeland Security is only funded through Feb. 27 — Republicans want to use the deadline as leverage to block the immigration spending.
On the Senate side, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., the new chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced a bill Thursday to block funding for Obama’s immigration executive actions. He said the measure would “stop unelected bureaucrats from using the dollars of hardworking taxpayers to implement the president’s unconstitutional executive actions.”
The strategy opens yet another front with the Obama administration just days into the new, Republican-controlled Congress. Lawmakers already are moving legislation on ObamaCare and the Keystone pipeline which the White House has vowed to veto.
The White House is likely to fight hard to preserve funding for the immigration initiatives, which would spare potentially millions of illegal immigrants from deportation while allowing them to work in the U.S.
But those pushing the “defund” bill also have to contend with renewed concerns about homeland security funding in the wake of the Paris terror attack.
A senior GOP source who asked not to be identified indicated that Republicans must walk a fine line on DHS funding.
Lawmakers like GOP Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., have urged Congress not to jeopardize DHS funding over the immigration battle. House Speaker John Boehner also assured Thursday that his party would fund DHS.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson hinted Wednesday that failing to fund DHS in a timely fashion could prevent the U.S. from being able to stave off a new-style terrorism attack akin to what happened at the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo.
The Republican source indicated that starting early on DHS funding would allow the GOP to work through the immigration debate — without punting until late February and creating a standoff which fails to fund DHS.
Going after the funding for the immigration initiatives is tricky, since most immigration activities are funded by fees. House Republicans are looking at pushing a bill to change the law so immigration-related services are subject to congressional funding approval.
However, pushing such legislation through the Senate could be the trickier part, considering they would have to clear a 60-vote hurdle — and Republicans only have a 54-member majority.