House Vows to Kill Funds for Obama Immigration Plan

House Vows to Kill Funds for Obama Immigration Plan
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In a predictable and continuing partisan split over President Obama’s executive action on immigration, Republicans in Congress this week are pursuing steps to undermine and halt the action while Democrats vow to stand behind the president and spread the word about the new immigration rules.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on a $39.7 billion measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security that includes several amendments to defund the executive action Obama took on immigration last year. The bill passed out of the Rules Committee on a 7-3 vote Monday. In November, after years of wrestling with Republicans in Congress over immigration reform, the president laid out his plan to allow an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions to apply for temporary legal status.

GOP lawmakers have consistently said since the announcement that Obama’s actions were illegal, and that he overstepped his constitutional authority in pushing his plan without legislation from Congress. They are using the Homeland Security funding as a way to try to stop his plan.  

“We’re voting to block the president’s overreach, his executive overreach, which I believe is beyond his constitutional duty and frankly violates the Constitution itself,” House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday during his weekly news conference. “This is not about actually the issue of immigration. What it is, it’s about the president acting lawlessly.”

“Our goal here is to fund the Department of Homeland Security,” Boehner added. “And our second goal is to stop the president’s executive overreach. This is not the way our government was intended to work.”

In a press conference on the steps of Capitol Hill Tuesday morning, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and a large group of House Democrats railed against the Republican tactic of using DHS funding to go after immigration.

“In January, a horrible, horrible terrorist attack took place in Paris,” Pelosi said. “You think it would have heightened the urgency to pass a Homeland Security bill, but Republicans still say ‘no,’ still say ‘no’ to passing a clean bill, unless they can be a menace to immigration.”

Along with fighting the Republican plan, Democrats are working to get the word out to those who will be affected by the immigration changes to make sure they understand how the new rules will work.  

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) announced Tuesday he will tour the country in the coming months promoting and celebrating the president’s immigration action. The tour kicks off Wednesday with an event in Providence, R.I., and continues through March, with at least 13 rallies and events in 10 or more states. Gutiérrez has toured the country in a similar fashion in the past to try to drum up support for immigration reform.  

The plan to widely promote the executive action has been in the works since last year, with Wednesday’s event in Providence planned since before Christmas. Douglas Rivlin, communications director for Gutiérrez, said the fact that their events promoting the executive action fall at the same time Republicans are fighting it is “a good coincidence,” and that part of the Republican plan is to create confusion and uncertainty about the new rules.

“There are many people as we go around the country that are fearful,” Gutiérrez said. “I want them to know that we’ve got your back. We’re here standing up for you.” 

The White House earlier this week threatened to veto the Homeland Security funding legislation if it passes Congress with the amendments aimed at immigration, though it supports the legislation without the additions. Gutiérrez said Monday that House Democrats would sustain the president’s veto if it comes to that.

“I think there’s an important number and it’s two-thirds, and they don’t got it in the House of Representatives, much less 60 votes in the Senate,” Gutiérrez said. “I think part of this is there’s this fantasy that it’s going to pass in the Senate and somehow the president’s going to sign it and negotiate it. There is no negotiation on the principles of the president’s authority of executive authority. He has it, he will sustain it, he will veto it and we will be here.”

If the House does pass the amended version of the funding, it seems unlikely it will get enough support in the Senate to reach the 60-vote threshold. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, told reporters that the Senate will take up debate when the bill is sent to the chamber, but if there aren’t enough votes to pass the House’s version, there will be an effort to find something they can get six Democrats to support and send back to the House. 

“I don’t know how this is going to play out, how it’s going to end,” Thune said. “All I know is there is a very sincere interest among our members in both the House and the Senate in challenging the president’s overreach on this particular issue.”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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