House Republicans on Wednesday made good on their threat to use a spending bill to try to thwart President Obama’s recent executive order on immigration – after chastising him for reversing himself after he said he had no authority to make such a change.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) devoted his floor speech to recounting Obama’s earlier pronouncements that he wasn’t an “emperor” and was “bound by the Constitution” and separation of power from legislating immigration policy by executive fiat. Obama on November 20 said he would temporarily shield nearly five million illegal immigrants from deportation and grant work permits for many.
“To think that the president of the United States actually studied constitutional law . . . and taught it as well,” Boehner said. “But now his actions suggest that he has forgotten what these words even mean. Enough is enough. By their votes last November, the people made clear they wanted more accountability from this president. By our votes here today we will heed their will and we will keep our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The House by a vote of 236 to 191 sent a Department of Homeland Security spending bill to an uncertain future in the Senate – but a certain veto if it were to somehow make it to the president’s desk. The bill would provide $39.7 billion to the DHS, representing a $400 million increase from the previous fiscal year. Yet the bill was laced with GOP amendments to prevent any funds – either appropriations or fees – from being used by the department to put into effect the protection of illegal immigrants.
The House-passed measure also would repeal the Deferred Action for the Childhood Arrivals program that Obama unilaterally ordered two years ago to protect young people brought to this country by an illegal immigrant parent – the so-called “dreamers” – and other relaxed immigration rules.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said it was crafted to reverse an unconstitutional “power grab” by Obama. But coming less than two weeks after the start of a new GOP-controlled Congress, the vote suggested the political environment has changed little since the poisonous atmosphere and gridlock late last year. Moreover, the bill reflects virtually all the demands of the Tea Party wing of the House GOP majority, which last week gave Boehner a scare when he sought re-election as speaker.
In an unusual development, 26 Republicans protested the effort to cut protection for the “dreamers” and voted against an amendment that came from conservative Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Blackburn’s amendment barely passed, 218 to 209. If it had gone down, that would have likely threatened passage of the underlying bill.
With many lawmakers and Americans worried about terror after last week’s carnage in France, a number of leading Republican senators signaled this week the House-passed measure cannot muster the minimum of 60 votes it would need for Senate passage.
“The 114th Congress started one week ago with Republican leadership saying they wanted to work together and govern maturely,” said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). “It only took a week for Republican leadership to fold to its right wing. Instead of compromise, we see confrontation.”
“If you don’t agree with the president’s enforcement actions, which are legal, and similar to steps taken by several Republican presidents, then let us have a serious debate about comprehensive immigration reform. Then bring an immigration bill to the floor.”
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