Congress

Here’s What House GOP Could Do When Obama Issues His Immigration Order

Republicans mulling special session, appropriations riders, lawsuit.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) speaks about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. The news conference was held to discuss immigration control issues that are before Congress. 
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Rachel Roubein
Nov. 16, 2014, 3:13 p.m.

When Pres­id­ent Obama is­sues ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders on im­mig­ra­tion, House Re­pub­lic­ans will be wait­ing with re­per­cus­sions.

They’re ready­ing for a fight as Obama crafts ad­min­is­trat­ive ac­tion that couldre­portedly de­fer the de­port­a­tionof as many as 5 mil­lion un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. This would likely count as the “big and bold” move Demo­crats are ur­ging Obama to take, but many Re­pub­lic­ans view this as an over­reach of pres­id­en­tial power. It’s an ac­tion that should have con­sequences, they say.

All op­tions are on the table as House Re­pub­lic­ans pre­pare to fight the pres­id­ent “tooth and nail,” House Speak­er John Boehner said in a press con­fer­ence Thursday.

“Here’s the time to get cre­at­ive,” Rep. Matt Sal­mon of Ari­zona said, “and I think that’s what the speak­er said when he said we’re look­ing at all op­tions right now.”

But what ex­actly does “cre­at­ive” mean—and how far will it ex­tend?

If Obama an­nounces his ex­ec­ut­ive or­der next Fri­day at noon, the House could stay in ses­sion for as long as needed rather than be­gin­ning the planned Thanks­giv­ing re­cess. The cham­ber could pass a res­ol­u­tion re­ject­ing the pres­id­ent’s ac­tions. Then House Re­pub­lic­ans would fo­cus on ap­pro­pri­ations.

The cur­rent fund­ing bill is set to sun­set Dec. 11, and law­makers are jock­ey­ing over passing an­oth­er short-term con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tion or a longer-term pack­age. The House could at­tach a rider pro­hib­it­ing en­force­ment of Obama’s or­der, or it could not provide money to de­part­ments that would re­spond to ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion.

This strategy aligns with a let­ter that Sal­mon, along with at least 62 co­sign­ers, sent House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers and rank­ing mem­ber Nita Lowey. It urges them to in­sert lan­guage in­to any spend­ing bill pro­hib­it­ing the use of ap­pro­pri­ated money for ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion that would cre­ate ad­di­tion­al work per­mits or green cards. Es­sen­tially, Con­gress’s power of the purse would be Obama’s pun­ish­ment.

“If we can really tar­get it just to that, it might be the holy grail,” Sal­mon said. But he wanted to make one thing clear: “Nobody’s threat­en­ing a shut­down. Nobody.”

That’s a re­frain Rep. Trey Gowdy, Im­mig­ra­tion and Bor­der Se­cur­ity Sub­com­mit­tee chair­man, echoed. But, first, he ticked off three op­tions Re­pub­lic­ans do have: ap­pro­pri­ations, po­ten­tial lit­ig­a­tion, and ad­vice and con­sent.

Re­pub­lic­ans have already made clear their will­ing­ness to block the up­com­ing at­tor­ney gen­er­al nom­in­a­tion as a con­sequence of ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion. And Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers have said they would con­sider broad­en­ing a planned law­suit against the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to in­clude the pres­id­ent’s ac­tion on im­mig­ra­tion.

But there’s a new Con­gress con­ven­ing in Janu­ary, and many Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers say that’s when com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion-re­form le­gis­la­tion should be giv­en an­oth­er shot.

“From ‘08 to 2010, [Obama] had the House, the Sen­ate, and the White House,” Gowdy said to sev­er­al re­port­ers on Cap­it­ol Hill on Fri­day, “and he didn’t do a damn thing about im­mig­ra­tion re­form, so if he could take two years to do noth­ing, I would think he could give this new Con­gress maybe three months? Six months?”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Bal­art, a power play­er in the House Re­pub­lic­an im­mig­ra­tion ne­go­ti­ations, said any ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tion would throw a “hand gren­ade” in­to deal-mak­ing.

“I think we have an op­por­tun­ity, and I’ve been very clear,” the Flor­ida Re­pub­lic­an told re­port­ers, “there’s no guar­an­tees. Ob­vi­ously, I think we have an op­por­tun­ity to deal with the is­sue that’s ser­i­ous, that’s real, that’s per­man­ent, that is fair to folks who have done things leg­ally, that helps the eco­nomy, that ad­heres to the rule of law.”

COR­REC­TION: The ori­gin­al ver­sion of this art­icle in­cor­rectly at­trib­uted to Rep. Steve Scal­ise a series of quotes spoken by an­oth­er law­maker.

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