GOP Leadership Cornered on Immigration

January 29, 2015 Updated: January 29, 2015

Time is running out for the Republican leadership on immigration, as the right-wing of the GOP has refused symbolic fixes and Senate Democrats are promising to kill the bill targeting the president’s November immigration order. 

On Tuesday, virtually every single Senate Democrat signed a letter asking Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to allow for a “clean” version of the bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The bill passed by the House had amendments that would defund President Obama’s November executive action on immigration. 

“The House bill cannot pass the Senate,” the letter reads. “The President has also made clear that he will veto any bill that expressly limits his authority to exercise prosecutorial discretion on immigration matters.” 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.) has made promises that the GOP would try to reverse the president’s November immigration order in 2015, but hasn’t ruled out passing a clean version of the DHS funding bill. 

Some Republicans have returned to the old playbook of passing a symbolic bill against illegal immigration to placate the conservative base, but to no avail. A border security bill co-authored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas.) was pulled from a scheduled vote after it was branded as a pro-amnesty bill by immigration hawks. 

Meanwhile, reports say that Boehner is considering filing a lawsuit against the Obama administration over immigration, which could take years to resolve. 

It remains unclear whether the GOP leadership would risk a government shutdown to defund the president’s immigration order, but polls suggest that a fight over immigration could yield support for the GOP. 

A Paragon Insights poll conducted this week found that 58 percent of registered voters oppose the president’s November immigration order, and 53 percent want Congress to defund the order. 

The letter by Senate Democrats warned that a DHS shutdown could pose a national security risk, but the agency was minimally affected by the last government shutdown in 2013, during which most employees continued working. 

The president’s November immigration order was further highlighted on Wednesday at Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch’s confirmation hearing. Lynch fended off repeated questions from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) about whether the president could expand the November immigration order to shield millions more from deportation. 

Lynch said that she would have to do further research to determine if there was a legal basis for such a maneuver. When Cruz asked her if a hypothetical president Cornyn, the other Senator from Texas, could use prosecutorial discretion to effectively lower the income tax, Lynch gave the same reply.