WASHINGTON — In a defiant challenge to GOP leaders, immigration hardliners in Congress announced Wednesday they will oppose upcoming legislation to keep the government open. They demanded specific provisions to stop President Barack Obama’s executive actions that granted a reprieve from deportation for millions.
“We aren’t with our vote going to give him one dime to execute his illegal action, and we believe the American people are going to stand with us,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., at a press conference outside the Capitol where she was joined by other House conservatives and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
Cruz warned against “having a meaningless show vote” and said: “We should announce we mean what we say, we will use our constitutional authorities to force this president to faithfully execute the laws.”
The growing conservative opposition was a problem for House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders a day after they presented House Republicans with a two-part plan to respond to Obama’s move on immigration and keep the government running past Dec. 11, when a current funding measure expires.
The plan involves voting on stand-alone legislation this week to declare Obama’s immigration move “null and void.” Then next week, lawmakers would pass a spending bill that funds most government operations for a year but keeps the Department of Homeland Security running only for a few months. Since Homeland Security overseas immigration issues, the approach is meant to maintain leverage over those programs and revisit them next year when Republicans will control both the House and the Senate.
But for the most conservative House members, the approach does not do enough to rein in Obama, who incited GOP wrath with his move last month to grant work permits to some 4 million immigrants living in the country illegally. These conservatives dismiss the stand-alone bill planned for this week as a meaningless gesture, since it would face certain death in the Senate, and are pushing for the spending bill to include language stripping out money to enact Obama’s plans.
Party leaders and many more pragmatic Republicans fear such an approach could result in a government shutdown since Obama would be sure to veto any such measure.
“I just don’t think it’s the time in the process where we need to be digging in our heels and drawing red lines in the sand and threatening potential shutdowns and a lot of upheaval,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark.
But in response to conservative concerns, party leaders were weighing offering an even shorter-term funding bill for the Homeland Security Department so that lawmakers could renew their fight on the issue sooner into the new Congress, said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Many of the same lawmakers now working to oppose Boehner on immigration helped provoke a government shutdown a year ago in a failed attempt to stop Obama’s health care law. Republican leaders have made crystal clear they want to avoid a repeat of that outcome, although the political damage turned out to be short-lived.
Then, as now, Cruz crossed the Capitol to prod House Republicans to defy their leaders and withhold support, and outside groups such as Heritage Action agitated for confrontation.
The conservative opposition may mean that House GOP leaders have to rely on some Democratic votes to approve their funding measure. It’s not clear how much Democratic support there would be, and several Democrats said they were withholding judgment for now. But the situation will likely give Democrats more leverage over the content of the spending measures.
At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest left open the possibility Obama could sign the spending measure being developed by Republicans, even with the shortened funding piece for the Homeland Security Department. Notably, the White House has not issued a veto threat against the Republican proposal.
While Earnest said the White House prefers a spending bill that covers all agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year, White House officials were less concerned about a short-term spending measure for the Department of Homeland Security than they were about any provision that would block Obama from implementing his immigration executive actions.
Obama himself said he understood Republicans would “take a couple stabs at rolling back” his executive actions but said he hoped a legislative solution would then become possible. “Temperatures need to cool a bit in the wake of my executive action,” he said at a meeting with business leaders.
Meanwhile a 17-state coalition led by Texas filed a lawsuit against Obama’s executive actions on immigration.