Sessions: Yes, order can be blocked

Sessions: Yes, order can be blocked
© Greg Nash

Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump reignites court fight with Ninth Circuit pick Democrats press Nadler to hold Lewandowski in contempt Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' MORE (R-Ala.) on Thursday rebutted claims by the House Appropriations Committee that President Obama’s executive order on immigration could not be defunded in legislation to avoid a government shutdown.

“The American people’s Congress has the power and every right to deny funding for unworthy activities. It is a routine and constitutional application of congressional power. There is no question that Congress has the power to block this expenditure and no doubt that it can be done,” Sessions said in a statement. 

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Early Thursday, the GOP-led House Appropriations Committee said the strategy to defund the executive order would be “impossible” because the agency that issues work permits and green cards is funded by fees and not congressional appropriations.

“This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications," the committee said in a statement. "Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to 'defund' the agency." 

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters that, in order to shift the authority for funding to Congress for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), Congress would need to pass a separate authorization bill. 

A spokeswoman for the committee said an appropriations bill cannot contain authorizing language. 

Sessions's office countered that there are “numerous ways” any appropriations bill could block funding, whether it’s through fees, revenue or transfer of funds.

Republicans are debating their plan of attack, as Obama prepares to announce a series of immigration actions that conservatives are denouncing as an unconstitutional power grab.

With government funding set to run out on Dec. 11, there is growing pressure for the GOP to take action to stop Obama from carrying out his plans.

While some in the party fear triggering a shutdown fight with Democrats, Sessions — who was one of the first to push for defunding the immigration order — said legislation funding the government will require 60 votes in the Senate, regardless of whether the immigration language is included.

“If such language is not included, the measure will be subject to the same 60-vote threshold in the Senate and simple majority in the House. This will require no more votes than passing a funding bill without the needed language,” he said.