There has been no shortage of criticism to President Barack Obama's decision to reform immigration policy through executive action. Some of the loudest voices speaking out against the president have come from Republican lawmakers. In the days before the president made his immigration announcement, Republicans warned the president against taking such unilateral action. Now, nearly two weeks later, Republicans remain unsure on how to respond in opposition to the executive actions.
House Speaker John Boehner admits that the GOP has a limited number of options available in the short term. Republicans will not take a majority of both houses of Congress until next year. “We're looking at a variety of options, both for right now and when Republicans control both houses of the Congress next year. Frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly,” said Boehner.
One unpopular option would consist of using the coming government funding bill to prevent the president's policy changes from moving forward. However, this would result in another government shutdown, which could backfire against Republicans. Party leaders have indicated this is not an option. Another problem with attempting to de-fund the coming immigration changes is that many of the new costs will be funded through application fees, which could continue even after a government funding shutdown.
Even a partial shutdown could make it harder for Republicans to pass legislation going forward, where they need additional Democratic votes. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic Leader, indicated to Republicans that her party would not support any budget plan that did not include funding for the government for the entire fiscal year, or that left out funding for some parts of immigration spending.
During a hearing before the Homeland Security Committee, DHS chief Jeh Johnson defended the immigration reforms, indicating he personally supported all the changes. “Many of these individuals have committed no crimes and are not enforcement priorities. It is time that we acknowledge this as a matter of official policy and encourage eligible individuals to come out of the shadows, submit to criminal and national security background checks, and be held accountable,” said Johnson.
Another option for those opposed to the president's immigration reforms, is to put forward a resolution of disapproval. The proposal calls for a vote in the House to say that the president does not have the power to take such executive action. This would allow politicians to have an official record of their opposition to the immigration order. However, this would be a purely symbolic measure, with not force of law behind it, knowing the Senate would not take up the measure.
Without any real options for Republicans until next year, voicing their opposition has become their only tool to fight immigration reform. Again, Boehner spoke out against the president's decision, echoing the complaints of many conservative lawmakers. The “decision to take unilateral action on immigration — action he himself said exceeded his authority — makes it harder for the American people and their elected representatives to trust his word on any issue,” said the House Speaker.
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