Republicans remain divided on how to respond to president Obama’s overhaul of the immigration system, the implementation of which the party leadership is hesitant to defund.
The president issued an executive action late November that would shield up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation and grant them benefits such as work permits and a social security number.
The House passed the “Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act of 2014,” 219-to-197 on Thursday, but observers say the bill is largely symbolic because the Senate, controlled by Democrats, won’t pass the bill. Senator Ted Cruz said on Wednesday that passing the bill would be a “meaningless show vote.”
“Their actions are completely divorced from their rhetoric,” Daniel Horowitz of the Conservative Review said of House Republicans. “On the surface they’re saying it’s totally unconstitutional, but your actions have to match the seriousness of the constitutional crisis.”
“It’s not attached to the critical defund bill, it’s a ceremonial disapproval,” Horowitz said.
House Speaker John Boehner had previously accused Obama of acting like a “king” and “emperor” for going forward with an overhaul of immigration without the approval of Congress, but neither Boehner nor House Appropriations Committee Harold Rogers have pledged to attach conditions that would defund the president’s executive action to the spending bill needed to be passed before Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.
The latter has previously signaled opposition to leveraging the spending bill against the president’s immigration overhaul. Rogers’ office released a statement hours before the president’s immigration address that Congress could not defund an executive action on immigration, but this claim has been disputed by many, including the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan research branch of Congress.
“In either case, the funds available to the [U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services] through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds,” the CRS wrote in a report obtained by Breitbart News.
Speaker Boehner moved forward on Friday to pass an omnibus spending bill with the cooperation of Democrats.
The spending bill would pay for the operations of most government agencies for a year while extending the Homeland Security Department operations only for a few months. Homeland Security includes the immigration agencies that would carry out Obama’s executive actions, so the approach would allow Republicans to revisit them early next year, once they have control of the Senate and a bigger majority in the House.
“We think this is the most practical way to fight the president’s action,” Boehner said on Friday.
“This is all a dog-and-pony show, they support amnesty, if you read between the lines,” Horowitz said, adding that if the Republican leadership did commit to a budget brinksmanship over immigration—that is, only pass a spending bill that would also defund the immigration overhaul—they would come out better politically because of the policy’s unpopularity.
To date, a majority of polls find that Americans oppose the president’s immigration order by a slight margin.