Speaker Boehner vows House response to Obama’s immigration policy changes
The political war over President Obama’s controversial policy changes on deportation escalated Friday as congressional Republicans vowed to derail his efforts.
“We’re working with our members and looking at the options available to us,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, “but I will say to you the House will, in fact, act.”
The House Homeland Security Committee announced plans to hold a hearing in response to Obama’s executive action. The panel said it will meet on Dec. 3 to hear testimony from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who helped formulate Obama’s plans.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, who chairs the panel, said he plans to use “every tool at my disposal to stop the president’s unconstitutional actions from being implemented, starting with this oversight hearing.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a leading opponent of the president’s action and the likely incoming chairman of the Budget Committee, accused Obama of refusing to enforce the law and promised to use budgetary measures to prevent funding for the implementation of the new immigration rules.
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, Sessions said such action is necessary because Obama “granted amnesty to 5 million people, and he did it by basically saying, ‘I’m not going to enforce the laws of the United States of America.’ ”
“He ignored the interests of the American people, the American workers, recent immigrants who have been here and are looking for jobs in a time of unemployment. He undermined, in my view, the moral integrity of immigration law. And even the constitutional separation of powers.”
Sessions is leading the effort to keep government funding on a short leash in the new year, when Republicans take over the Senate and control both chambers of Congress, making it easier to get clear majorities for his preferred line of attack.
Sessions dismissed the immigration reform bill the Senate passed last year, saying: “Politicians will pass anything that sounds good about immigration as long as it doesn’t change anything, as long as it won’t work.”
But there are those in the GOP who worry that the anger may be playing into the president’s hands.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said a growing group of Senate Republicans is coalescing around a more tempered rebuttal to the president: passing a series of standalone immigration bills in the coming months and demonstrating to voters that the party can govern.
“Put legislation on the president’s desk,” Flake said. “We could do bills on border security, interior enforcement, mandatory E-Verify, and address high-tech workers and guest workers.”
Limiting funding would require a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, and it would almost certainly draw a veto from Obama, which, critics say, would lead to a possible shutdown of some federal agencies.
Boehner declined to spell out how Republicans would counter the executive actions, which extend protections to roughly 4 million undocumented parents of legal citizens and young immigrants brought here illegally when they were children.
Obama went to Nevada on Friday to tout his executive orders on immigration at a high school in Las Vegas, where he issued a call for reform shortly after the start of his second term.
“Nearly two years ago, I came here, Del Sol High School, right in this gymnasium … and I said that the time had come for Congress to fix our broken immigration system,” he said.
Obama argued that lack of action by the GOP House is what forced his hand on taking unilateral action.
“The fact that a year and a half has gone by means that time has been wasted,” Obama said. “And during that time, families have been separated. And during that time, businesses have been harmed. And we can’t afford it anymore.”