GOP Plan to Block Immigration Action Could End in Government Shutdown

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Photo: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

On the morning after the GOP’s midterm rout, incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell promised to end gridlock in Washington and declared, “There will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt.” On Wednesday, lawmakers returned to D.C. following a seven-week recess, and there’s already talk of a risky showdown with President Obama over immigration. Obama has said he’ll take executive action on immigration before the end of the year, and while it’s unclear what exactly he plans to do, a group of Republican lawmakers is planning to use a government spending bill to stop him. If the situation escalates and Congress fails to pass new spending legislation, the government will shut down on December 11.

To avoid this, Congress can either pass a plan to keep the government funded through September 2015 or a short-term bill that would require the new Congress to pass legislation when Republicans take control of the Senate in January. The Republican leadership is pushing the long-term spending bill, but some in the GOP favor a temporary fix that would offer them another opportunity to use the legislation against Obama in the new year.

Either way, the idea is to attach language to the spending bill that would bar Obama from acting alone on immigration. Republican Representative Hal Rogers explained that they couldn’t expect Obama to sign such a bill. “I don’t want a shutdown,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “You should not take a hostage that you can’t shoot.”

Many of his conservative colleagues disagree. More than 50 House lawmakers have signed a letter to Rogers, who is the House Appropriations Committee chairman, urging him to attach language on immigration to any spending bill.

In the Senate, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, Mike Crapo, Pat Roberts, David Vitter, and Mike Lee wrote a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding action against Obama’s unilateral move on immigration and vowing to use “all procedural means necessary” to stop him. “Congress appropriates the money,” Sessions told reporters on Wednesday. “That’s a clear constitutional power. If Congress disapproves of the president providing ID cards for people who’ve been in the country illegally, then it should not appropriate money to fund it.”

After the government shut down last year over a misguided attempt to halt Obamacare, polls showed people mainly blamed Republicans. Obviously, it didn’t hurt the GOP in the midterms, so why not try it again?