WASHINGTON (AP) – House Republicans plan to vote next week to block spending for President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, setting up a potentially explosive showdown with no certain outcome.
The vote will come as the House considers legislation to keep the Department of Homeland Security running past February. Lawmakers said the goal is to keep the agency running on full funding — an especially critical goal in the wake of the Paris terror attacks — but to stop Obama's immigration actions from taking effect.
Obama's directives in November gave temporary relief from deportation to about 4 million immigrants in the country illegally, along with permits allowing them to work legally in the U.S. His move infuriated Republicans after their midterm election victories, and they vowed to retaliate once they assumed full control of Congress this week.
"We are not going to allow taxpayer dollars to be used to fund those unlawful orders," said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., who is among a group of lawmakers who've been meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to develop their response.
Yet it's unclear whether a House bill blocking funding for Obama's move would clear the Senate, where Republicans are six votes short of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most measures. And it could face a veto threat from Obama.
That leaves the end game uncertain. But by starting the process in early January, House Republicans say they are giving themselves plenty of time to figure that out before Homeland Security funding expires at the end of February.
"The main goal is to fund DHS and make it clear that there are no funds, including the funds that are fee-based, for the president's illegal actions," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. "We fully expect to get the president to sign it and we're going to use every bit of leverage we've got to get him to do so."
The coming clash on immigration was teed up late last year when Republicans kept the Homeland Security Department on a short leash while funding the rest of the government for a full year. Republicans figured they'd be better positioned to respond to Obama's move when they returned to Washington in control of the Senate as well as the House.
Yet Obama's veto pen gives him as much leverage as ever, and it remains unclear whether Republicans will ultimately be able to stop his immigration moves.
It also remains to be seen whether House Republicans will unite around the measure once it's finalized. In past immigration debates, tea party-backed conservatives have pushed for tougher language than that embraced by leadership. McCarthy has included conservatives in his deliberations, and at least one hardliner, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, sounded satisfied Thursday with the direction the legislation was taking.
But an outside conservative commentator, Daniel Horowitz of the Conservative Review, wrote that the House must go beyond blocking Obama's recent executive steps and also eliminate an earlier program that granted deportation reprieves and work permits to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children.