POLITICS

House Republicans pass amendments that undo Obama's immigration executive order

Before heading to the White House today to meet with President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, tells reporters that the House of Representatives will pass a budget for the Department of Homeland Security but will block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto bills that Republicans have put forward as their priorities. Senate and House Republicans, now in control of Congress, will leave Washington Thursday for a two-day policy retreat in Hershey, Pa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Before heading to the White House today to meet with President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, tells reporters that the House of Representatives will pass a budget for the Department of Homeland Security but will block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Obama has repeatedly threatened to veto bills that Republicans have put forward as their priorities. Senate and House Republicans, now in control of Congress, will leave Washington Thursday for a two-day policy retreat in Hershey, Pa. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

As they promised, Republicans in the House approved amendments on Wednesday that undo President Barack Obama's unilateral moves on immigration.

Despite a White House veto threat, Republicans attached language blocking Obama's immigration initiatives to legislation providing nearly $40 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year.

The broader bill was expected to be approved later in the day.

Republicans said Obama's executive actions on immigration were an unconstitutional overreach that must be stopped.

"If in the future a Republican president does the same thing, I will be the first to be here with you to stand against that to fight back," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. "Law is not made at the White House."

But Rep. Luis Guiterrez, D-Ill., accused Republicans of "viciousness" for trying to make it easier to deport immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. 

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., called the GOP effort "a political vendetta," adding, "It's a reprehensible, reckless tactic which will compromise, has already compromised, the full and effective functioning of our Homeland Security Department" at a time of heightened security risks."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, praised the House votes while also vowing to continue his work on a bipartisan measure that reform immigration in a comprehensive way.

"President Obama has said that said that any executive action would be 'very difficult to defend legally,' and yet we have seen him use such power not once, but twice in as many months," Diaz-Balart said in a statement. "It is evident that the only permanent and legal way to solve our country’s broken immigration system is for Congress to pass legislation that actually has a chance of becoming law and deals with the issue."

"It's time for President Obama to respect the powers of the United States Congress as they are written in the laws of our great nation," he said.

The House voted 237-190 to approve one amendment to undo executive actions that Obama announced in November to provide temporary deportation relief to some 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. A second amendment would delete Obama's 2012 policy that's granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. That measure passed more narrowly, 218-209, as more than two dozen Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.

The changes Obama announced in November especially enraged the GOP because they came not long after Republicans swept the midterm elections, taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House. Republicans pledged then to revisit the issue once Congress was fully under their control.

But even with Republicans in control of the Senate, the bill faces difficulty there, especially because House GOP leaders decided to satisfy demands from conservative members by including a vote to undo the 2012 policy that deals with younger immigrants known as "Dreamers." The amendment, which is opposed by some of the more moderate Republicans in the House, would ultimately expose those young people to deportation.

Republicans are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation in the Senate, and even some Republicans in that chamber have expressed unease with the House GOP approach, especially given the importance of funding the Homeland Security Department in light of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Some House Republicans acknowledged that the Senate was likely to reject their approach, perhaps forcing them in the end to pass a Homeland Security funding bill stripped of controversial provisions on immigration.

"They're not going to pass this bill," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.

Homeland Security money expires at the end of February so House leaders have left themselves several weeks.

Immigrant advocates warned Republicans that Wednesday's votes risked alienating Latino voters who will be crucial to the 2016 presidential election.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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