House Leadership Peddles Plan that Punts Defunding of Executive Amnesty

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014
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National Issues
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In a closed-door meeting this morning, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) pitched House Republicans a plan to pass a government funding bill that delays the decision on whether to defund President Obama's executive amnesty to next year. The Speaker's proposal comes as Congress is racing to pass a budget before the government runs out of funding on December 11. And, because the Constitution requires that spending bills originate in the House of Representatives, Speaker Boehner is ultimately the one to spearhead the process for defunding the President's immigration orders. (See U.S. Const., Art. I, Sec. 7)

Under the Speaker's plan, the House will take a hybrid approach to funding the government. First, Congress will consider an appropriations bill that funds most of the government through September 2015 (known as an omnibus), but only funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) until March (known as a Continuing Resolution). (Politico, Dec. 2, 2014) House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY), who previously claimed Congress cannot defund the executive amnesty, voiced his support for the Speaker's plan, calling it a "good option" that would allow him to get the spending package to the House floor "early next week." (Politico, Dec. 2, 2014; CQ Today, Dec. 2, 2014; see FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014)

Then, the House will vote on a separate bill to express its disapproval of the executive amnesty. Authored by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), this bill prohibits the executive branch from exempting from deportation "persons unlawfully present in the United States." (H.R. 5759) However, with Democrats still controlling the Senate, this bill will be dead on arrival. Thus, the bill to fund the government will go through, but nothing will be done to stop the President's executive amnesty.

True immigration reformers blasted House GOP leadership for promoting this strategy. Representative Steve King (R-IA) declared, "I will not vote to fund the president's lawless unconstitutional act and they should not be asking members to do so." (Bloomberg Government, Dec. 2, 2014) Similarly, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) released a letter from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) that refutes the claim by GOP leadership that it lacks the authority to defund the executive amnesty. CRS wrote that even for agencies that are largely funded through fees (such as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)), "the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds." (See Reuters, Nov. 26, 2014)

However, if Speaker Boehner can garner enough support from the rank-and-file for this approach, Congress will likely wait until March to act. Many who support the President's actions hope that the extra time will help quell public outrage at the President's actions that will shield 5 million illegal aliens from deportation, grant them work authorization, and make them eligible for numerous benefits