House GOP looks to block Obama but keep government open

House Republicans on Tuesday homed in on two strategies for stopping President Obama from acting unilaterally on immigration, despite the risk of engaging in another shutdown battle with Democrats.

Under one option, Republicans would vote to fund the government but exclude the agencies that would implement Obama’s order, which is expected to delay deportation for millions of people who came to the country illegally.

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The alternative would be to fund the government and rescind appropriations for the executive order next year, once Republicans control both chambers of Congress.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump McConnell says he'll be in 'total coordination' with White House on impeachment trial strategy MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday declined to endorse either strategy, saying only that he is likely to support whatever legislation emerges from the House.

“We expect the House to go first and I anticipate supporting whatever the House sends over. So I think we’re going to wait and see,” McConnell said.

“Our goal is to fund the government,” he added. “How long will be determined largely by the House majority in consultation with the Senate majority and to avoid retroactive tax increases.”

Lawmakers are facing a looming Dec. 12 deadline to prevent a shutdown of the federal government.

While appropriators are crafting a massive funding package that would last through September, Republican anger over Obama’s immigration plan is forcing GOP leaders to assess other options.

It remains unclear whether Senate Democrats would reject legislation that denied funding to parts of the Justice and Homeland Security departments, the two agencies with the biggest role in implementing immigration policy.

“Immigration should not prevent Sen. McConnell and [Speaker John] BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE from working with me to fund the government on this issue. This is really hard to comprehend,” Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidNevada journalist: Harry Reid will play 'significant role' in Democratic primary The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment The Hill's Morning Report — Pelosi makes it official: Trump will be impeached MORE (D-Nev.) said Tuesday.

Conservatives such as Reps. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE (R-Ariz.) and Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannMellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations Klobuchar urges CNN town hall audience: 'That's when you guys are supposed to cheer, OK?' MORE (R-Minn.) are leading the charge in the House to defund the order through the funding bill.

“We can pass all of the bills that have nothing to do with his executive order. That goes through controversy-free. When we do the other bill, it doesn’t include the funding for his executive action,” said Salmon, who said he planned to meet with House GOP leaders on Tuesday to explore the options and nail down a solution.

Bachmann said the separate bill should block funding for work permits to “illegal aliens” and warned Democrats will suffer the consequences of Obama’s overreach.

“I don’t think the president understands how he’s going to drive his party into oblivion by this action,” she added.

Retiring Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinNew Hampshire parochialism, not whiteness, bedevils Democrats Democrats must question possible political surveillance Wisconsin lawmaker gets buzz-cut after vowing not to cut hair until sign language bill passed MORE (D-Iowa) said he would oppose a two-pronged approach to government funding.

“No I wouldn’t be for that,” he said. “That’s not a way to run a country. That’s a way to run a machine warden in a city some place ... not to run a great nation like America.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who has been pushing for an omnibus, has proposed postponing the standoff over immigration until next year by rescinding funding for the immigration action retroactively.

Rogers also hinted that he has discussed the idea with McConnell, and suggested it would be difficult to legislatively attack the president’s executive actions on immigration until he issues them.

“We don’t know what [Obama’s] trying to do,” Rogers said in response to questions about what funding Republicans could try to rescind.

Freshman Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who was sworn into Congress last week, said he might be open to Rogers’s proposed plan.

“If that’s true, if the House and the Senate can rescind without the threat of a veto, I’d give that a strong look,” said Brat, who knocked off former Majority Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorBottom line Meet Trump's most trusted pollsters Embattled Juul seeks allies in Washington MORE (R-Va.) in a primary over the summer.

But Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a staunch opponent of Obama’s immigration proposals, said the rescission approach could backfire. 

“If there are discussions about rescissions, that probably ignores the very likely veto that one would get. If we’re talking about rescissions, we should have a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate before we go down that path,” he said.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest said the debate on Capitol Hill about government funding would not affect Obama’s timetable for taking action.

“My sense is that even if the president doesn’t announce anything until late in December, that will not prevent Republicans from preemptively trying to attach to the [continuing resolution] or an omnibus bill a proposal to make the implementation of that executive action harder,” Earnest said.

The White House said it would not “view very favorably” any “unwarranted” Republican efforts to attach measures undercutting executive action to a spending bill.

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who is close to GOP leaders and was picked for House Ethics chairman on Tuesday, said his conference might be leaning toward a long-term spending bill.

“It’s important to clear the decks before Christmas and start the year clean,” he said. “I think leadership is trying to direct the caucus toward an omnibus.” 

The leader of the defund-ObamaCare campaign that preceded last year’s shutdown, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate Republicans air complaints to Trump administration on trade deal Senate passes Armenian genocide resolution Houston police chief stands by criticism of McConnell, Cruz, Cornyn: 'This is not political' MORE (R-Texas), said he favors a short-term spending bill, adding that he hopes Obama will reconsider issuing his order.

“The president is not a monarch. He does not get to decree, ‘My way or the highway and if Congress doesn’t give me anything I want, I will declare it by fiat.’ That’s not the way the Constitution works.”

Justin Sink and Bernie Becker contributed.

This story was posted at 11:45 a.m. and updated at 8:36 p.m.