Republicans weigh options on immigration

House GOP leaders huddled with rank-and-file members Wednesday in search of a strategy for blocking President Obama's recent executive action on immigration policy.

Gathered in the Capitol office of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the Republicans discussed a handful of different GOP proposals designed to prevent Obama's order from taking effect.

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Emerging from that meeting, the lawmakers said they haven't settled on a final design surrounding either the policy or the strategy for moving the language through the lower chamber. But they said they made enough progress that they hope to vote on the measure next week as part of a larger package funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) beyond February.

"We have to deal with the president's unlawful activity," said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "We also need to keep this department open — it's very important."

There are several GOP proposals under discussion, all designed to block Obama's new policy of halting deportations and allowing work permits for as many as five million immigrants living in the country illegally.

"The goal is to, you know, undo the president's unconstitutional actions," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who is pushing one such proposal. "I don't think we've settled on the specific technicalities. I think what you saw in there was an agreement on the goal, and that's important."

It's unclear if the Republicans will present the immigration language as part of the DHS spending package, or introduce it as a separate amendment later in the debate.

"Those are things that are being discussed," said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), head of the House Appropriations Committee. "No conclusion yet."

But GOP leaders think they're close enough to finalizing their strategy that they can move the bill well ahead of Feb. 27, when DHS funding expires.

"I want to do the bill next week," Rogers said.

As part of December's government spending package, GOP leaders funded the DHS only through Feb. 27, providing a much shorter leash to the agency overseeing Obama's executive action to give Republicans another shot at blocking the order early this year.

Complicating the debate for the Republicans, the DHS branch that will oversee the executive changes is funded by user fees, not taxpayer dollars — a dynamic the Republicans readily acknowledge.

"You can't do it in an appropriations bill," Rogers said. "You can do it if you have a rider that changes the law."

Rep. Matt SalmonMatt SalmonComey fallout weighs on the GOP Conservative activists want action from Trump Senators fear fallout of nuclear option MORE (R-Ariz.) said some Republicans are pushing to attach additional policy riders to the must-pass bill. But he cautioned that the best way to fight Obama's order is to keep the riders cleanly focused on the immigration order.

"We're dealing with this as a constitutional issue. It's not the policy, it's the way it was done," Salmon said. "There's a lot of good competing ideas, and I think that what's going to come out of this meeting with the leadership is going to frame a bill that we're going to vote on probably by next Tuesday."

Other Republicans attending Wednesday's meeting included Reps. Ron DeSantis (Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Jim Jordan (Ohio) and Steve King (Iowa).

— This story was updated at 6:04 p.m.