Boehner to Sue Obama, Again

The speaker is planning to hold a House vote authorizing a suit against the president over his executive orders on immigration.

National Journal
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Daniel Newhauser
Jan. 27, 2015, 6:11 a.m.

Speak­er John Boehner is fi­nal­iz­ing a plan to sue Pres­id­ent Obama again, this time over the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision to grant work visas to mil­lions of un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants.

Boehner told his con­fer­ence at a closed-door meet­ing Tues­day morn­ing that he has a team ex­plor­ing the best op­tions to chal­lenge last year’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion, un­der which the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment will be­gin grant­ing leg­al work­ing status to mil­lions of im­mig­rants, ac­cord­ing to sources in the room.

“Our team has been work­ing on lit­ig­a­tion. We are fi­nal­iz­ing a plan to au­thor­ize lit­ig­a­tion on this is­sue — one we be­lieve gives us the best chance of suc­cess,” he said, ac­cord­ing to a source in the room.

The move to­ward a law­suit comes as the GOP’s le­gis­lat­ive op­tions to tar­get the pres­id­ent’s policies are wan­ing. The House passed a bill fund­ing DHS that con­tained pro­vi­sions rolling back Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion and oth­er ad­min­is­trat­ive re­lax­a­tions of im­mig­ra­tion en­force­ment, in­clud­ing de­ferred ac­tion for child­hood ar­rivals, oth­er­wise known as Dream­ers. But the bill faces an un­cer­tain fu­ture in the Sen­ate, where the im­mig­ra­tion-re­lated meas­ures are thought not to have the re­quis­ite Demo­crat­ic sup­port to ex­ceed the 60-vote fili­buster threshold.

If the bill comes back to the House with less-strin­gent meas­ures tar­get­ing the White House’s im­mig­ra­tion policy — or, in­deed, none at all — it is un­clear that it can pass the cham­ber. So chal­len­ging the pres­id­ent in ven­ue oth­er than the Cap­it­ol could as­suage GOP House mem­bers who have said un­equi­voc­ally that they do not want to move any oth­er im­mig­ra­tion meas­ures un­til the pres­id­ent’s ac­tions are dealt with.

It is un­clear wheth­er a con­gres­sion­al law­suit would also chal­lenge the de­ferred ac­tion for child­hood ar­rivals policy, which has already put off de­port­a­tion for more than a half- mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. The House would have to vote on a res­ol­u­tion au­thor­iz­ing leg­al ac­tion, and that could come in the form of its own law­suit, or in the form of join­ing an ex­ist­ing suit chal­len­ging Obama’s ac­tions.

Boehner’s com­ments come a day after GOP lead­ers de­cided to pull a bor­der-se­cur­ity meas­ure from House con­sid­er­a­tion. Lead­er­ship aides said the snowy weath­er and a short le­gis­lat­ive week were to blame, but the meas­ure faced prob­lems of its own, namely from some con­ser­vat­ives who think it does not go far enough to shore up in­teri­or en­force­ment.

At a press con­fer­ence Tues­day, Boehner ac­know­ledged that out­stand­ing is­sues need to be dealt with, ones that are bey­ond the Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee’s jur­is­dic­tion.

“We’re go­ing to have to walk through all of this with our mem­bers,” he said, “and when we’re ready to move, we will.”

A new group of about 30 House con­ser­vat­ives named the House Free­dom Caucus met Monday night, and the near-un­an­im­ous sen­ti­ment in the private meet­ing was that any bor­der-se­cur­ity bill should not be moved without a com­pan­ion bill that shores up en­force­ment with­in the na­tion’s bor­ders. Oth­ers still said that no im­mig­ra­tion bills should be rushed to the floor un­til there is some fi­nal­ity on wheth­er the pending DHS bill can block Obama’s ac­tions, mean­ing a bill would not come un­til March. Fund­ing for DHS runs out Feb. 27.

“There’s a grow­ing body of people that are sick and tired of the, ‘Trust me, we’ll do it later ap­proach’ and want us to deal with both in­teri­or en­force­ment and bor­der se­cur­ity at the same time,” said Rep. Matt Sal­mon, a House Free­dom Caucus found­ing mem­ber.

Ul­ti­mately, though, Rep. Tom Cole, a Boehner ally, said dis­cus­sions will con­tin­ue next week, with the bill to be put to the floor soon­er rather than later — and that mem­bers are un­likely to vote against a bor­der-se­cur­ity bill.

“We’ve al­ways said we’re go­ing to do this piece by piece, so you can’t take that po­s­i­tion and then turn around and try and do a com­pre­hens­ive bill,” Cole said. “That’s not what we be­lieve in. We be­lieve in rifle-shot le­gis­la­tion.”

Any law­suit from Con­gress tar­get­ing White House im­mig­ra­tion policy would not be alone in the courts. More than half of the states, led by Texas, have already sued, chal­len­ging in fed­er­al court wheth­er Obama’s dir­ect­ives should be al­lowed to go in­to ef­fect. Oth­er states and cit­ies have filed briefs in the case de­fend­ing the ac­tion.

Late last year, a fed­er­al judge threw out an­oth­er, sim­il­ar case, filed by Ari­zona’s Mari­copa County Sher­iff Joe Arpaio and an im­mig­ra­tion act­iv­ist.

The House is already su­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion on an­oth­er is­sue. Last year, the cham­ber voted along party lines to au­thor­ize a law­suit chal­len­ging, among oth­er parts of the law, the leg­al­ity of Obama’s delay of a rule man­dat­ing that em­ploy­ers provide health in­sur­ance to their work­ers.

House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi seized on the news Tues­day as “an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure” by the GOP on im­mig­ra­tion policy.

“Re­pub­lic­ans’ rad­ic­al anti-im­mig­rant le­gis­la­tion is dead on ar­rival,” Pelosi spokes­man Drew Ham­mill said in a state­ment. “Once again, House Re­pub­lic­ans are crawl­ing to the courts to re­lieve them of their re­spons­ib­il­ity to gov­ern.”

COR­REC­TION: An earli­er ver­sion of this art­icle misat­trib­uted a state­ment from House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi’s of­fice. The state­ment was made by Pelosi spokes­man Drew Hammill.

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Contributions by Rachel Roubein