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