House Republicans are poised to stage a major battle next week against President Obama's immigration policies.
Republicans plan to vote on a proposal to roll back Obama's deportation relief programs for undocumented immigrants and end an administration policy that aims to reduce deportations of non-criminal undocumented immigrants.
"We are going to use our voice in the House of Representatives to say that was an illegal activity," Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told reporters at the Capitol after a closed-door meeting where the plan was presented.
The plan goes further than expected.
Republicans aren't just targeting Obama's most recent executive action, which could shield up to 5 million immigrants from deportation. They're also taking aim at two other Obama initiatives: a 2012 program offering deportation relief and work permits for young undocumented immigrants and a 2011 policy change that asks immigration agents to focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who are recent entrants or have criminal records.
Votes could happen next Tuesday or Wednesday before House Republicans go on their annual retreat in Hershey, Pa.
The plan's broad scope pleased House conservatives who have been clamoring for a fight with Obama over immigration.
"I am pretty confident we are going to get a bill I support," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most outspoken immigration hawks in the House.
"The president's illegal executive action didn't start on Nov. 20 … you had to include all of the illegal actions," added Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pennsylvania).
But the move has angered some Republicans who support an an immigration overhaul that offers a path to citizenship. That group includes as many as a dozen Republicans, according to multiple lawmakers.
"I'm certainly not happy with the current status of the bill," said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California). "We've got to deal with immigration as a whole, reforming our system across the nation. Just picking on the children that came here through no fault of their own, I think, is the wrong way to start."
The stakes are high. Kind of.
The immigration measures would be tied to a $39.7 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where money will run out on Feb. 27 if Congress doesn't act.
Neither party wants to see a DHS shutdown. The department handles the nation's frontline security, from patrolling the borders to monitoring airport entries.
The recent terror attacks in Paris further underscore the importance of the government's third-largest cabinet department, and Democrats are seizing on the idea that Republicans are endangering the U.S. by playing politics with national security.
"As the risk of terrorism rises, this perilous Republican tactic sends the worst possible message at a very dangerous time,” Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement Friday.
The reality may be less dramatic. Most DHS employees would likely continue on the job, even if Congress can't reach a funding-extension deal. During the last shutdown, in October 2013, 85 percent of the department's workforce was deemed "essential" and remained on the job.
"Unless the president plays games, the national security aspect, border patrol, border security—that will not shut down," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Florida).
The measure aims to cut off the cash flow for Obama's immigration programs.
One of the strengths of Obama's deportation relief programs is that they don't use taxpayer dollars. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA), announced in 2012, runs on application fees, and the new, broader deportation relief program would function in the same manner.
In fact, the agency that processes immigration paperwork—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services—runs almost entirely on fees, so it won't shut down even if Congress refuses to fund DHS.
With that in mind, Republicans drafted legislation that forbids the government from using either federal funds or revenue generated from fees to support Obama's immigration programs.
The legislation would also close the door on the existing DACA program, blocking new applicants from applying and existing enrollees from re-applying.
None of this is likely to work.
Many Republicans ran for reelection last November on the promise they would fight against liberal immigration policies. This effort is an attempt to make good on that.
The measure has little chance of passing, however. Although Republicans control the Senate, they're still six votes shy of the 60-vote hurdle needed to avoid a "filibuster," a technique used by minority parties to sidetrack debate. The bill will almost certainly pass in the more-conservative House and then die in the Senate.
Even if the legislation succeeded in the Senate, the president would likely use his veto power to block it from becoming law. Still, that hasn't fazed Republicans in the House.
"We are starting from a conservative standpoint as opposed to negotiating with the Senate before we even pass a bill," said Aderholt.
Rick Wilson, a Republican media and messaging strategist based in Florida, said Obama would never let the GOP tarnish his legacy by sinking one of his signature initiatives. "If he lets the Republicans roll over him on immigration, he'll have nothing but grumbling from the progressive side of his party," Wilson said.
With that in mind, House Republicans realize they'll have to recalibrate their plan to stop Obama's action.
"This is a great first step but we have to think about what the next step is going to be, we have to be very clear that we are going to get a different product from the Senate," said Labrador. "How are we going to draw the line in the sand?"
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.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.