For weeks, congressional Republicans opposed to President Obama’s immigration policy have weighed their options, with many looking at the upcoming federal spending bill as the vehicle of choice. It’s created the possibility of another GOP government shutdown.
But the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee today offered some bad news for the GOP lawmakers clamoring for a showdown: their plan may be “impossible” as a practical matter.
In a statement released by Committee Chairman Hal Rogers’s (R-Ky.) office hours before Obama’s scheduled national address, the committee said the primary agency responsible for implementing Obama’s actions is funded entirely by user fees.As a result, the committee said the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) agency would be able to continue to collect fees and carry out its operations even if the government shut down.
As The Hill reported, the House Appropriations Committee issued a written statement, saying, “This [CIS] agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. 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.”
Rogers’ spokesperson went on to tell reporters, “We cannot, literally cannot, defund that agency in an appropriations bill because we don’t appropriate that agency. That agency is entirely fee-funded.”
It’s obviously an important detail: Congress can’t deny funds to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services if Congress already provides no funding to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Right-wing lawmakers weren’t satisfied with the answer – Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told reporters, “I don’t believe that” – but let’s not forget that this is an instance in which Republicans are telling other Republicans what the party doesn’t want to hear. Rogers, who strongly opposes the White House policy, has no incentive to lie to his party’s anti-immigration wing.
So, if “defunding” won’t work, “recession” won’t work, impeachment won’t work, and a shutdown isn’t realistic, are Republicans out of options? Not just yet.
As Greg Sargent reports, GOP lawmakers still have “riders” on their minds.
There are still ways for Republicans to proceed. Ted Cruz, for one, is not calling for a direct “defunding” of the agency that would implement Obama’s “executive amnesty.” Rather, he argues that Republicans should attach “riders” to the funding of other government functions – “critical” ones – that would also “strip the authority from the president to grant amnesty.” […]Alternatively, Republicans could attach riders to appropriations bills that also restrict funding from being used to carry out Obama’s executive action. Even if those funds are generated by fees, Congress can restrict their use for particular measures.
Of course, adding anti-immigrant riders to spending bills would lead to presidential vetoes, and without spending bills, the government shuts down.
Challenging Obama’s actions in court seems like the less-disruptive, less-tantrum-like avenue, but it’s also an approach that would take longer. Just as importantly, the far-right may find a lawsuit emotionally unsatisfying, at least as compared to more confrontational riders.
All of which increases the likelihood of a government shutdown.