Immigration confrontation looms

GOP may withhold funds if Obama acts

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WASHINGTON — As Pres­i­dent Barack Obama nears a de­ci­sion on tak­ing broad ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion to re­shape the na­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem, Re­pub­li­cans are threat­en­ing to force a con­fron­ta­tion over what they de­scribe as a power grab, by re­fus­ing to fi­nance some or all of the moves.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has said his party could seek to pre­vent Mr. Obama from tak­ing uni­lat­eral ac­tion on im­mi­gra­tion by re­mov­ing the fund­ing for it in the an­nual bud­get, which will be the top or­der of busi­ness when Con­gress re­turns from its break and must be passed by the end of Sep­tem­ber.

In­ject­ing the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue into the an­nual bud­get dis­cus­sions raises the pos­si­bil­ity of a spend­ing stale­mate that could lead to an­other gov­ern­ment shut­down in the fall. Such a con­fron­ta­tion would pose a risk for both par­ties: Re­pub­li­cans were largely blamed for the shut­down last year, and many Dem­o­crats are wary of an im­mi­gra­tion vote just be­fore they face vot­ers in No­vem­ber.

“There will have to be some sort of a bud­get vote or a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion vote, so I as­sume there will be some sort of a vote on this,” Mr. Rubio said Tues­day in an in­ter­view with Breit­bart, a con­ser­va­tive web­site. “I’m in­ter­ested to see what kinds of ideas my col­leagues have about us­ing fund­ing mech­a­nisms to ad­dress this is­sue.”

House and Senate Re­pub­li­can lead­ers say they have no in­ten­tion of shut­ting down the gov­ern­ment just weeks be­fore the mid­term elec­tions. But the con­ser­va­tives who are the most pas­sion­ate foes of any im­mi­gra­tion ac­tion could press the is­sue when law­mak­ers re­turn.

“If the pres­i­dent wields his pen and com­mits that un­con­sti­tu­tional act to le­gal­ize mil­lions, I think that be­comes some­thing that is nearly po­lit­i­cal nu­clear,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, ac­cord­ing to The Des Moines Reg­is­ter. “I think the pub­lic would be mo­bi­lized and gal­va­nized, and that changes the dy­namic of any con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion and how we might deal with that.”

Dem­o­crats have ea­gerly seized on the pos­si­bil­ity of a shut­down fight, pre­dict­ing that vot­ers will pun­ish Re­pub­li­can can­di­dates if the party uses the bud­get ne­go­ti­a­tions to block an im­mi­gra­tion over­haul.

“They’re will­ing to treat peo­ple who sim­ply want to make a bet­ter way of life for them­selves and their fam­i­lies in­hu­manely and use their Tea Party ide­ol­ogy to beat the pres­i­dent into sub­mis­sion if they don’t get their way,” Rep. Deb­bie Wasser­man Schultz, D-Fla., the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­woman, said in a con­fer­ence call Wed­nes­day with re­port­ers.

At the same time, Demo­cratic can­di­dates for the Senate have urged Mr. Obama to de­lay any sweep­ing ac­tion on im­mi­gra­tion. Dem­o­crats cam­paign­ing for re-elec­tion in con­ser­va­tive states worry that the pres­i­dent could fire up con­ser­va­tive vot­ers if he acts uni­lat­er­ally.

One of those sen­a­tors, Ar­kan­sas’ Mark Pryor, said the pres­i­dent’s frus­tra­tion with Re­pub­li­cans who op­pose an im­mi­gra­tion over­haul did not give him “carte blanche au­thor­ity to side­step Con­gress when he doesn’t get his way.”

White House of­fi­cials said they had no in­ten­tion of let­ting Re­pub­li­cans’ threats in­flu­ence the tim­ing or sub­stance of an im­mi­gra­tion an­nounce­ment from Mr. Obama. The pres­i­dent has prom­ised to re­veal his in­ten­tions soon. He has said he was con­sid­er­ing a uni­lat­eral move be­cause of the re­fusal of the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled House to pass an over­haul of the im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.

If Re­pub­li­cans were to force a shut­down over the is­sue, it “would put not just their ef­forts to take the Senate, but po­ten­tially their ef­forts to keep the House, in great dan­ger,” said se­nior Obama ad­viser Dan Pfe­iffer.

Mr. Rubio said in a let­ter Tues­day to Mr. Obama that he was “in­creas­ingly alarmed” by re­ports that the pres­i­dent, with­out con­sult­ing Con­gress, could re­move the threat of de­por­ta­tion for mil­lions of im­mi­grants in the coun­try il­le­gally. “If in­deed you move for­ward on such a de­ci­sion, I be­lieve it will close the door on any chance of mak­ing prog­ress on im­mi­gra­tion re­form in the fore­see­able fu­ture,” Mr. Rubio said in the let­ter.

Rubio aides said he was not ad­vo­cat­ing a gov­ern­ment shut­down to pro­test the pres­i­dent’s im­mi­gra­tion ac­tions. But they said he would want, and ex­pect, a vote on any pres­i­den­tial im­mi­gra­tion ac­tion to come up dur­ing the bud­get de­bate.

What could hap­pen next is un­cer­tain. In 2013, House and Senate GOP lead­ers said they did not want the new health care law to lead to a gov­ern­ment shut­down.

But sev­eral con­ser­va­tive law­mak­ers had other ideas, and the re­sult­ing stale­mate closed the gov­ern­ment for 15 days last fall.

White House press sec­re­tary Josh Ear­nest said he hoped that Re­pub­li­cans “wouldn’t do the same thing again, to shut down the gov­ern­ment over a com­mon-sense, bi­par­ti­san ef­fort to try to mit­i­gate at least some of the worst prob­lems that are caused by our bro­ken im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem.”

Mr. Ear­nest said the pres­i­dent would not think twice about tak­ing ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion on im­mi­gra­tion be­cause of the GOP threats. “The pres­i­dent is de­ter­mined to act where House Re­pub­li­cans won’t,” he said.

United States government - Barack Obama - United States Congress - U.S. Republican Party - United States Senate - Marco Rubio - United States House of Representatives - Josh Earnest - Mark Pryor - Debbie Wasserman Schultz - Steve King - Dan Pfeiffer


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