Vowing to wage a war against those who support President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, three U.S. lawmakers known for their hard line on immigration called for defunding parts of it in the spending bill that comes up for a vote in the House next week.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, held a news conference in Washington to push for an immediate attack on Obama’s unilateral move – unveiled last month – to give temporary reprieve from deportation to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants and allow them to obtain work permits.
The three Tea Party favorites called for taking aggressive steps to block the executive order’s implementation, such as a rider on the spending bill that would eliminate funding for it.
The lawmakers said that Obama’s move amounted to an end-run around Congress, and said it is unconstitutional.
"We fought a bloody revolution to free ourselves from monarchs," Cruz said, according to the National Journal. "What the president is doing is dangerous. If the president doesn't have to follow the law, what is the point of electing Congress?"
Bachmann said that the November election that enabled Republicans to win back control of the U.S. Senate was a mandate for the party to apply the brakes on Obama and his policies.
"Will we be a people who decide that we are going to go with the freight train of what Washington, D.C., wants or will we listen and harken to the voice of the American people that was stated unmistakingly on Nov. 4?" Bachmann said at the press conference.
It is a departure from the approach that so-called establishment Republicans – in their own press conference on Tuesday on the matter – said they were considering. House Speaker John Boehner told reporters that Republicans were considering several options and no decision had been made, but aides and lawmakers said that he indicated during a closed-door meeting with the rank and file earlier that the vote on legislation to block Obama was the leading option. It would be on a bill by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., aimed at blocking Obama from unilaterally allowing categories of unlawful immigrants to live and work here.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cruz attended a meeting of the House’s conservative caucus at the Capitol Hill Club, according to Politico. The meeting, hosted by King, has become something of a tradition, with the aim of reviewing bills that are up during the lame-duck season that follows November elections.
The caucus’s meeting this time focused on the executive action on immigration, Politico said.
The order would extend relief from deportation to up to 5 million undocumented immigrants, as well as tighten interior enforcement, among other things. On Tuesday, Boehner said that the lower chamber, where Republicans have a majority, may vote on undoing parts of Obama’s executive action on immigration.
“This November's election was a referendum on executive amnesty, and the American people overwhelmingly oppose President Obama's illegal amnesty,” Cruz said in a statement.
"Republicans in Congress should use every tool at our disposal—our constitutional checks and balances—to stop President Obama's amnesty.”
“The Senate should use its constitutional authority to halt confirmations for non-national security positions, until the President stops this illegal amnesty,” he continued. “And both Houses should use the power of the purse, which the Framers understood to be the most potent tool Congress has to rein in an out-of-control Executive. We should pass a short-term continuing resolution that includes language defunding the implementation of the President’s executive action on amnesty.”
Boehner and other more moderate Republicans assailed Obama’s unilateral move on immigration as virtually despotic.
Obama has countered that he decided to act unilaterally after Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure.
"We're looking at a number of options in terms of how to address this. This is a serious breach of our Constitution," Boehner told reporters on Tuesday. "It's a serious threat to our system of government, and frankly we have limited options and limited ability to deal with it directly."
Supporters of the president's executive action said that it would be a tactical error by establishment Republicans to allow their most hard-line members to lead their handling of immigration.
"Employing irrational tactics attacking necessary policy reforms is nothing for Sen. Cruz and the Tea Party Wing," said Cesar Vargas, director of DREAM Action Coalition and a national activist for the DREAM Act. "The President's executive action has strong support by the public, specially Latino voters. Republican leadership run peril if they continue to allow the Kings to lead their conference next year."
The spending measure the House will vote on next week will top $1 trillion and fund the day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies through the Sept. 30 end of the 2015 fiscal year.
The Department of Homeland Security — whose personnel implement Obama's orders to permit more immigrants here illegally to remain in the U.S. — may be kept on a shorter leash and be funded only into early 2015 under a plan floated by Boehner. The idea would be to try to reverse Obama's moves on immigration when revisiting its budget next year.
Boehner said no decision has been made. If GOP leaders go forward with the plan they would be rejecting demands by King, Cruz and other conservative activists to take a more confrontational approach now and try to attach legislation explicitly blocking Obama's immigration orders to the must-pass spending bill.
“If the president gets away with this power-grab, Congress can expect its authority to be further eroded by more and more executive actions in all areas of policy,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that favors strict immigration enforcement. “Congress needs to do everything it can to rein in the imperial presidency – not just this incumbent but his successors, as well – by using an all-of-the-above strategy: deny, file one or more lawsuits, deny nominees confirmation, and educate the public.”
“The main issue for Republican voters and rank-and-file congressmen is this – is their leadership genuinely committed to short-circuiting Obama’s unprecedented power-grab, or are they just going through the motions? We probably won’t know the answer for sure until next year.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.