Republicans in Congress have said repeatedly that if President Obama uses an executive action in order to address immigration, that Congress will simply shut the action down by refusing to fund the matter. As House Representative Steve King (R – Iowa) said, Congress will “use the power of the purse to restrain a president who has threatened to violate the Constitution in the most obscene manner possible.”
But Congress can’t make the decision to defund immigration reform, and the answer as to why they can’t is simple — Congress does not hold the purse strings of the agency that will be responsible for carrying out any executive action Obama authorizes. The House Appropriations Committee confirmed this in a statement.
“The primary agency for implementing the President’s new immigration executive order is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the Appropriations process cannot be used to ‘de-fund’ the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new Executive Order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.”
On Thursday, Obama is expected to announce that he is, in fact, using his executive authority in the matter of immigration. It is reported that he may stop deportations for as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants.
Republicans have expressed outrage over the President’s willingness to circumnavigate them over such a significant matter as immigration, but the president’s decision to take unilateral action comes after over 500 days of inaction from the House of Representatives on the matter. As the Huffington Post reported, Obama feels compelled to issue an executive action since the Republican-controlled House has refused to do so, “even after the Senate passed a sweeping bipartisan bill more than a year ago that included a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11.5 million people in the country illegally.” House leader John Boehner (R – Ohio) never let the bill to come to a vote, allowing is to stall out instead.
As Republican options are now severely limited as to how they can actually respond to Obama’s executive actions, talk of another government shutdown may get louder. House leader Boehner has refused to take the possibility off the table, saying last week, “We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern.” He then added, “All of the options are on the table. We’re having discussions with our members, and no decisions have been made as to how we will fight this if he proceeds.”
Boehner claims that the goal would not be to shut down the government, but that their goal is “to stop the president from violating his own oath of office and violating the Constitution.” Yet, despite that, he has been unwilling to deny the possibility. Furthermore, Rep. Steve King says that the success of the Republican Party in the midterm election is evidence that the GOP wasn’t hurt politically the last time they shut down the government, and Republican Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) kept a potential shutdown on the table, as well, saying, “If the president illegally tries to grant amnesty to millions of more people, I believe Congress should use every available tool to stop that amnesty and to defend the rule of law.”
Other Republican lawmakers, however, are openly against using a government shutdown. Rep. Charlie Dent (R – Pa) said, “Shutting the government down would only serve the president’s interests and we shouldn’t take the bait, we Republicans shouldn’t take the bait.”
Another Republican leader, Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, took it a step further, admitting that the GOP has done little on immigration. “Right now if he does this and makes all these declarations of the House won’t do anything and yada yada yada, what’s our response? You’re right, we haven’t done anything,” said Simpson. “Our only defense is we are working on it.”
For more on what President Obama’s immigration reform may entail, click here.
[Image via www.accessnorthga.com]