GOP divided over government funding

Republicans on Thursday emerged from their first conference meeting since their midterm elections win divided over their strategy to fund the government.

{mosads}GOP lawmakers agree they don’t want another government shutdown, which could happen if they don’t pass a new spending bill by Dec. 11.

They disagree, however, over whether the measure should fund the government through September or only a few months into the new Congress. That could give the GOP more leverage to block any executive action President Obama takes on immigration.

“I don’t think a full-year omnibus makes much sense, but there was no decision in there. Nobody wants a shutdown,” said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). “My read of the conference is very few people want to do long-term [continuing resolution (CR)] and give up all the power we just achieved in the elections.”

Others suggested Republicans might be leaning toward an omnibus spending bill, which House appropriators are expected to unveil in early December.

“My view is, most of the conference wants to pass an omnibus bill,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who supports such a move.

A group of more than 50 House Republicans indicated in a letter to the House Appropriations Committee Thursday they want to include language in the next spending bill that would pre-emptively block funding for Obama’s forthcoming immigration order.

Cole suggested a pre-emptive maneuver might lead Republicans down the wrong path.

“I’m certainly willing to consider things like that, but again, I don’t want to hold the government hostage to achieve an unrelated result,” he said. “I think we tried that during the shutdown over ObamaCare, and that was not successful. I don’t think we’ll be successful here.”

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), who is spearheading the push for language blocking immigration action, suggested the ball would be in Obama’s court.

“Nobody wants a shutdown. We simply want to have him enforce a law and don’t want to provide funding for doing something we believe is illegal. In fact, more than anything, I think we’re trying to throw the guy a lifeline,” Salmon said. “If he wants to have some meaningful immigration reform, which I think is entirely possible and probable, I think he needs to practice a little bit of common sense.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who supports immigration reform, is in favor of the omnibus spending bill approach and doesn’t think Republicans should rush to block Obama’s expected immigration executive action.

“At this stage, I don’t think it’s helpful,” Diaz-Balart said. “I don’t think this is potentially the right time to start drawing lines in the sand at this moment.”

Some Republicans favor a CR that only funds the government for a few months because it would allow them to reverse Obama’s actions once they control Congress next year.

“I feel like the American people spoke and said, ‘Stop the president’s policies,’ ” said Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). “I believe every effort should be made to accommodate the wishes of the American people.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) supports the omnibus bill his panel has been working on for fiscal 2015.

“Obviously when you do a CR, you throw into the trash can all of the work you’ve done on the bills,” which Rogers said involved more than 450 amendments on the floor and hundreds of hours of work.

Instead of destroying the omnibus, Rogers said Republicans could tackle Obama’s executive action through a stand-alone bill, retroactively next year instead of pre-emptively.

Asked if it would be more difficult to retroactively reverse the action, Rogers acknowledged, “It would be.”

But he said the courts could also potentially strike down any immigration order the president issues, if he oversteps.

President Obama is reportedly “nearing a final decision” on immigration action, which he has said he would take before the end of the year.

— Scott Wong and Cristina Marcos contributed.

— This story was updated at 11:20 a.m.

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