Breaking with House Republican leaders, conservatives are pressing for a short-term plan to fund the government while blocking President Obama’s move to grant legal status to millions of illegal immigrants.
The measure would allow the new Congress to weigh in on the president’s unilateral action and shape the spending debate.
Speaking yesterday during Conversations with Conservatives, a monthly Capitol Hill gathering with reporters, some of the House’s most vocal conservative Republicans pushed back on the option of a “continuing resolution,” or CR, to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30.
A short-term funding bill, they argued, would allow the new Congress to counter the president’s run around lawmakers to shield illegal immigrants from deportation and grant them work permits.
The 114th Congress will boast Republican majorities in the Senate as well as the House.
“The cavalry is coming,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said of Republican freshmen arriving next month, adding:
Why in the world would you want to extend a CR, a funding bill, for several months out? Why not wait for those people to get here? I think the voters have elected us, that’s what they would expect. I think that makes a lot of sense. Fund the government, but let’s do it for a short period of time.
One option for Republicans is to pass, by a Dec. 11 deadline, what has been dubbed a “cromnibus” spending bill — one that combines omnibus legislation with a short-term continuing resolution.
It would fund all of the government through September except for the Department of Homeland Security, which includes immigration enforcement agencies and would get only a few months of funding at most.
Conservatives who spoke at yesterday’s event said they would like to see debate begin in January over blocking spending to carry out Obama’s executive actions changing the immigration system.
“Why would we extend a continuing resolution until the end of March on DHS?” Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said. “Why not vote on the first day we’re back in the new year, when we have all our troops in place in the Senate?”
Some vulnerable Democrats are expected to support Republicans in their proposal to defund the president’s move to legalize up to 5 million illegal immigrants. Huelskamp, though, said others don’t want such a vote.
“That’s what we need to do: Put everybody on the line, Republicans, Democrats,” the Kansas Republican told The Daily Signal:
A lot of people probably went home and told their constituents they’re in favor of the American worker and Americans jobs and growing our economy, and the president’s executive amnesty does nothing of the sort.
Earlier in the morning, House Speaker John Boehner assembled the entire Republican conference to discuss how to move forward now that the president, in the view of many, has ignored the Constitution to go around Congress.
If Republicans are nearly united on anything right now, it’s their lack of interest in another partial shutdown of the government over a fight with Obama and the Democrats.
“Nobody wants to shut down the government,” Rep. Joe Barton of Texas told reporters at Conversations With Conservatives, adding:
I’ve never been in a Republican conference in 30 years where someone has stood up and said, ‘OK, guys, let’s develop a plan to shut the government down.’ You just don’t do that.
“There’s no one in the conference talking about a government shutdown,” he said. “The only ones talking about that are the president and folks in the media.”
Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho had a different take on the possibilities should negotiations stall.
“I don’t think anything is off the table,” Labrador said. “I don’t think anybody is thinking about a shutdown, but in negotiations, you never take anything off the table. That’s the first rule of negotiating, and apparently it’s not one that’s been learned in Washington, D.C.”
Labrador, who supports specific immigration reforms, reminded reporters that the House Judiciary Committee has passed several bills addressing aspects of the problem. But Obama, the Idaho Republican added, has said he would back off executive action only if the House passed comprehensive legislation similar to the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill, which the upper chamber passed last year.
“That’s extortion,” Labrador said.
Labrador suggested that the House send the Senate legislation denying funds to the Department of Homeland Security. If the Senate fails to pass it, he said, lawmakers could move to a short-term bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters later in the day that he would consider the House’s “cromnibus” proposal. The Nevada Democrat said:
That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all the appropriations subcommittees except for one. I think it’s kind of unfortunate that they’re talking about not doing Homeland Security, but that’s the way it is.
Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of The Heritage Foundation, released a statement that addressed the outgoing majority leader’s weakened position to make demands:
The Republican-controlled House could — and should — pass a bill that funds the government while blocking the president’s executive actions on immigration. Doing so would not only signal House Republicans are delivering on their election mandate, but also provide an opportunity to the growing number of Senate Democrats publicly opposed to the plan to back up their rhetoric with real action.
Indeed, conservative Republican senators are urging the House not to fund the Department of Homeland Security at all.
“Congress must respond to the president’s unlawful action by funding the government but not funding illegal amnesty,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, ranking minority member of the Budget Committee. “This is a perfectly sound and routine application of congressional authority.”
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said House Republicans should block funding for programs that implement Obama’s immigration action and force Democrats to “stand by their words and show respect for the message the American people sent on Election Day.” Lee added:
Once the House sends over a bill funding everything in government except the president’s executive action on amnesty, then Harry Reid could ignore it and create a government spending emergency, or he could take the bill up and attempt to strip out the defunding language. In the latter case, there would be a vote, and, I believe, it would be a very difficult vote for a number of Democrats.
Melissa Quinn is a news reporter for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Melissa.