House GOP may punt on immigration fight -- for now

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House Republicans spent Tuesday morning rallying around a plan that would avoid a government shutdown—but also set up a major fight over immigration next year, when they’ll be more powerful.


Under the plan, the House would vote on a measure disapproving Obama's deportation relief program. In a separate vote, lawmakers would fund almost all government agencies through next September, avoiding a shutdown on Dec. 11 when money is currently scheduled to run out. The plan was first reported by Politico.

But the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration policy, would only be funded through March, pushing a funding battle over immigration to 2015 when Republicans take control of the Senate.


The maneuver is a reaction to a series of sweeping immigration policy reforms announced by Obama last month that would allow an estimated 5 million people to apply for deportation protection and work permits. The move is temporary—permits are renewable, but last only three years—and the president has challenged Republicans to pass more lasting, bipartisan legislation.

Instead, they intend to vote on a symbolic measure opposing Obama's unilateral action, which they’ve characterized as an abuse of power. Of course, that measure won't have a shot of passing the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats for the rest of the year.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) will likely draft the new bill. Yoho introduced legislation last month would have gone even further by attempting to bar the president from using his power to exempt any group from deportation. But that measure will not be voted on, a House GOP aide told Fusion. The language of the new bill has not been finalized. A vote could be held as early as Thursday, with votes on the funding bills taking place next week, the aide said.

After a closed-door meeting with members, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters that no final decisions have been made. But he conceded that Congress has little power to counter Obama's immigration policy as long as it remains under divided control.


“We have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly," he said at a press conference.

With that in mind, some rank-and-file Republicans said there is little appetite for staging a shutdown showdown in the lame-duck Congress. They would rather return in stronger numbers next year and hope to end or force changes to Obama's policy.


Not every Republican is sold on the plan, an indication House Republican leaders could face a tough task of corralling enough support for the plan to pass. Some want to pass a shorter-term government funding measure and stage a spending fight in January or February.


Other conservative members want an even more aggressive response to the immigration order, such as a vote to censure or impeach the president.


Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said at a committee hearing Tuesday that funding his department on a temporary basis would disrupt border security operations.

"Border security is something that's not cost-free," he said. "I need help with resources. I need help on the southern border in Arizona, in Texas, New Mexico, for added detention capability, added surveillance capability, added vehicles, added equipment. And I'm hoping that Congress will support me on that."


Ted Hesson contributed reporting.

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.

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