Republicans Battle Over Government Funding, Responding To Obama On Immigration

It's an old story. Republican leadership wants to avoid a government shutdown, but the hard core conservatives want a fight, this time over the President's immigration action. We have a week to see how it unfolds.

Elephants Fighting

With the current Continuing Resolution set to expire on December 11th, House Republicans have come up with a plan to avoid a government shutdown while at the same time giving conservatives a largely symbolic vote on the President’s executive action on immigration, but there are already signs that many on the right aren’t happy with it:

WASHINGTON — House Republicans made progress on Tuesday steering some of their most conservative members away from a course that could shut down the government next week, a prospect that would badly damage the party as it prepares to take control of Congress in January.

Though the outcome remained unpredictable, Speaker John A. Boehner and his deputies were already counting votes for a two-part plan that they presented in a closed-door meeting in the Capitol.

The first step would be to allow a largely symbolic vote on legislation to dismantle President Obama’s executive action last month that delayed the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. The second would be to fund the government through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015, except for agencies that spend money to enforce Mr. Obama’s immigration action, like the Department of Homeland Security.

Congress would then revisit funding for those agencies early next year when Republicans are in control of both the House and the Senate and in a stronger position.


The resolution to undo the president’s action, however, would largely be a way for House Republicans to vent their displeasure, and could come as early as Thursday. Representative Ted Yoho of Florida, who came up with the plan, acknowledged that his measure would be a “symbolic message” if Senate Democrats did not take up his resolution — something Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, has said he is not going to do.

“The simplest way this would work is, it will bring a stop to the action that the president wants,” Mr. Yoho said. “He talks about how he has a pen and a phone. This will take the ink out of the pen.”

Then, House Republicans would vote next week on legislation to fund almost all of the government through September 2015, but use a short-term measure known as a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security, the agency primarily responsible for overseeing the administration’s immigration policy, only into March. Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, first raised the possibility of the spending plan before the Thanksgiving break.

Both Mr. Price and Mr. Yoho come with strong conservative credentials, and the Republican leadership’s decision to include them in the strategy helped earn the trust and support of some of the conference’s more resistant members.


Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said that short of going to court — still an option that Republicans are considering — there was not much they could do.

“We are not going to shut down the government again,” he said. “There is no doubt we are in a box, in a tough position here.”

The must-pass spending legislation is the first major test for the speaker and his new leadership team, who despite increasing their majority in the House on Election Day still need to show that they can break the gridlock that has defined Washington for the past few years — and, more important, keep their most conservative members in check.

Some conservatives, however, are likely to vote against the spending bill because they believe it does not go far enough. They say they would prefer a measure to fund the entire government on a short-term basis so that they can pass a spending plan early next year shaped by Republican majorities.

The speaker and his allies have been working to ensure that their spending plan can pass, and he seemed to gain an unlikely ally Tuesday in Mr. Reid, who called Mr. Boehner’s plan a “big accomplishment” that Senate Democrats might support.

“The American people certainly will not want to face another year being governed by crisis,” Mr. Reid said. “No one wants the kind of cliffhanger fights we’ve had again and again in recent years.”

There are several complicating factors here that House and Senate leadership need to navigate their way through in the next week to avoid a shutdown, any one of which could through any prospect of a deal into doubt. At the top of the list, of course, is the Senate, which is still under Democratic control. Notwithstanding Senator Reid’s comments, it is entirely unclear that a majority of Democrats would agree to a bill that singles out the funding for the entire Department of Homeland Security from the rest of the budget for a future budget fight in March. While many of these Senators won’t even be in office at that point, it’s the kind of slap at the President’s immigration policy that they seem unlikely to agree to, and it would go against the objections of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who yesterday called a short-term funding bill that singled out his agency “a very bad idea” because, among other things, it would impact programs that have nothing to do with the President’s immigration moves and would prevent the agency from engaging in any spending related to long-term planning. If the Senate doesn’t get on board, then the entire plan falls apart and both the House and the Senate will have to find some other way to get the government funded at least in the short term.

The second complication is the fact that even a short term effort to squeeze the President by limiting the funding at DHS is going to be entirely symbolic and would have absolutely no impact on funding for the President’s deportation deferment plan. The main reason for this is that the office that would handle the applications for deferments, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, is entirely self-funded by the fees that are paid by applicants and the statutes that authorize that agency are largely self-executing, meaning that there’s little that Congress could actually do to bring the program to a halt by “defunding” it as some conservatives have suggested. Theoretically, as one former Congressional aide has suggested, Congress could attach a rider to the next Continuing Resolution forbidding USCIS from using any of its funding to process applications related to the President’s announced deferments, but that could be potentially politically risky given the fact that the policy appears to be fairly popular both among the American public as a whole and Latino voters specifically. So, even when the GOP has control of Congress after January they would have to ask themselves if this is something that’s worth the political price they’d be likely to pay if it passed. Additionally, passage of such a measure in the Senate could be in doubt if Democrats decide to make use of the legislative filibuster in the same manner that Republicans did during their time in the Senate minority.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the House GOP Leadership’s plan, though, is the one inside the Republican Party itself:

The “Hell No” caucus is once again causing headaches for Republican leadership.

A cadre of the House’s most conservative members will meet Wednesday morning at the Capitol Hill Club for Rep. Steve King’s regular breakfast to discuss lame duck legislation. Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who often serves as a defacto spokesperson for congressional hardliners, is expected to attend.

These hardline Republicans are already expressing their dissatisfaction with the plan outlined by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) during a closed door meeting Tuesday morning. Instead of a spending bill that keeps the government funded through September with a chance to review the the Department of Homeland Security’s funding in March, the lawmakers want to pass a much shorter resolution.

“I think a lot of us, in discussion, we don’t see the purpose of having a long CR. Why not do it the first day we’re in session?,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) “I’m not sure it’s going to pass the way they are proposing it. I think it’s likely they are going to have to improve it if they want it to pass.”

These conservatives estimate the number of Republican “no” votes near 30 to 40 – enough to derail a vote on the government funding bill if Democrats oppose the measure.

Senate conservatives are beginning to badger House leaders over their plan to fund the government and symbolically disapprove of the president’s immigration action. GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, David Vitter of Louisiana and Mike Lee of Utah all began to blast the House GOP leadership’s plan on Tuesday afternoon, arguing that the House needs to block funding for implementation of Obama’s executive action now, not later.

Lee laid out a detailed roadmap to taking on the executive action in a statement to Breitbart News, arguing for a short-term continuing resolution that blocks funding for the executive action – the complete opposite of what Republican leaders in both chambers want.

“The House needs to do the right thing and send over the short term bill with the defund language,” said Lee spokesman Brian Phillips.


“You just can’t be bobbing and weaving on this,” Sessions told reporters. “This is not a matter to be discussed at some point. It’s just unacceptable aggrandizement of power that Congress has an institutional duty to reject.”

Added Vitter: “Make no mistake, sending a bill to the Senate without first making an attempt to include defund language is telling the American people that you support Obama’s executive amnesty. That would be a slap in the face to the voters who sent a message last month by electing Republican majorities in Congress.”

In the short term, there’s at least some prospect that these conservative dissenters could pose a problem for Boehner in getting a spending bill through the House without at least some Democratic support. If there really are 30-40 votes behind doing something tougher than than what leadership is backing then it will be difficult for a bill to pass the House without at least some Democrats voting for it, which may be difficult to get if it includes provisions for singling out the Department of Homeland Security. At the same time, though, there seems to be a wide consensus outside of this small group of House and Senate conservatives that a government shutdown ought to be off the table, not the least because polling shows yet again that Republicans have the most to lose in the event of a shutdown.

A new CNN/ORC poll, for example, shows that 50 percent of those surveyed would blame a shutdown on Congressional Republicans while only 33 percent would blame President Obama and 13% would blame both parties equally. These numbers nearly the same as they were prior to the shutdown in October 2013 which, by all accounts, was an all around disaster for the GOP tempered only by the fact that it was quickly followed by the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act and that it occurred sufficiently in advance of the 2014 midterms to allow Republicans to recover to a significant degree. This time, a shutdown would occur just before the GOP takes control of Congress and would threaten to taint public opinion of the new Congress from Day One. For that reason alone, it would seem entirely illogical for Republicans to risk a shutdown even over this immigration issue. Of course, it was also completely illogical for the GOP to taint public opinion more than a year ago over a doomed plan to “defund” Obamacare and we know what happened then, so stay tuned.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Mikey says:

    it would seem entirely illogical for Republicans to risk a shutdown even over this immigration issue

    What about the current GOP could possibly lead one to think logic has any role whatsoever?

  2. DC Loser says:

    Oh goody. I’m pulling up a chair with my popcorn to watch the GOP circular firing squad in action.

  3. Stan says:

    Where I grew up the only way a Republican (always male, of course) could lose was to be caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy. There are a lot of districts like this, and they’re usually represented by people to the right of Attila the Hun. What these guys worry about is opposition in a primary by somebody even more conservative. A shutdown would hurt the party’s image for a few months and might help the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, but otherwise it has no downsides, other than ruining the economy and giving ammunition to America’s foreign critics. So I wouldn’t bet against a shutdown, or a censure vote against President Obama, or even against impeachment.

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    I don’t believe you can overestimate the stupidity of today’s Republican Party.

  5. Mu says:

    The Republicans could simply add “acceptance of the provisions of the executive order” to the permanent exclusions from citizenship in the naturalization rules. No one gets deported, but also eliminates a wave of millions of new voters in about 10 years. But that would be reasonable, so no danger of them going that route.

  6. Slugger says:

    I have said this before. Messieurs McConnell and Boehner have won big electoral victories. Now is the time for them to introduce responsible bills addressing issues facing our country. Their failure to come up with any ideas to date encourage Obama to take unilateral executive action and encourage the other members of the GOP to jump up with wilder and wilder ideas. There is a vacuum of leadership in Congress, and lawsuits against the President, getting red in the face, and censure just don’t cut it. What is censure supposed to do other than look like a tantrum by a two year old?
    Are there no grownups in Washington?

  7. jd says:

    “symbolically disapprove of
    the president’s immigration

    But for heaven’s sake, don’t pass an immigration bill.

  8. superdestroyer says:


    But the Democrats could easily be in control in 10 years and they will most definitely up all of those who receive amnesty on a fast track to citizenship. The Republicans are really faced with deciding their own demise and which group inside the party to keep happy during that demise. My guess is that over the next few years the Republicans will work to keep the cheap labor open border Republican happy until the Republican Party ceases to exist.

  9. superdestroyer says:


    There is no bill that the Republicans can pass that will be both acceptable to those who voted for the Republicans and to the Obama Administration. The Democrats know that every demographic trend in the U.S. is in their favor. The Democrats have taken a long term view that it is better to gridlocked know rather than give an inch to the Republicans. President Obama will only sign bills that are 100% to the advantage of Democrats and a loss to the Republicans.

  10. Tillman says:

    I don’t believe a shutdown is as dangerous to their image as you make it. Electorally, it didn’t seem to do anything, and if all it takes is a year to recover from the political damage, they can reliably shut down the government for quite a while without paying any price for it.

  11. C. Clavin says:


    Electorally, it didn’t seem to do anything

    Well…the midterm was basically a Republican Base election…an electorate made up of mostly old white people. I wouldn’t necessarily take it as an indicator of what might happen in the General Election when there is actually a Democratic turnout. Although it is true that the memory of the American people is tragically short.

  12. Scott F. says:


    There is no bill that the Republicans can pass that will be both acceptable to those who voted for the Republicans and to the Obama Administration.

    That’s the go-to cop out for the GOP. Of course, they could still pass a bill that would get the Republican position on the record and debated publicly regardless of the likelihood Obama would veto.

    No. There is no bill that the Republicans can pass that will be both acceptable to… those who voted for the Republicans who are in the pocket of Wall Street and those who voted for the Republicans who are nativists.

  13. C. Clavin says:


    There is no bill that the Republicans can pass that will be both acceptable to those who voted for the Republicans and to the Obama Administration.

    But that is ONLY because those who voted for the Republicans are completely intractable.
    Remember…Obama came to the budget negotiation table willing to cut SS and Medicare. Republicans still walked away because their positions were set in stone. Don’t try to pretend that this is Obama’s fault. There’s a Senate bill now that could be negotiated over as it passed with Bi-Partisan support. House Republicans refuse to even bring it to a vote.
    This is a problem based in the Republican party. Period.

  14. al-Ameda says:


    t would seem entirely illogical for Republicans to risk a shutdown even over this immigration issue. Of course, it was also completely illogical for the GOP to taint public opinion more than a year ago over a doomed plan to “defund” Obamacare and we know what happened then, so stay tuned.

    Recent history reminds us that there is absolutely no downside, no negative consequences, to Republicans if they set it up to shut down government over any issue. The only place the Republicans ‘suffer’ is in polling, that’s it. They’ve done this twice in 5 years and they’ve retained a sizable majority in the House, and now they control the Senate. Voters – the few that bother to vote, particularly in the mid-terms, are quite satisfied with this toxic approach to governance.

  15. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The promise was for more spending now (and more taxes) with some undefined spending cuts in the future. Everyone knew that the spending cuts would never occur. The only thing that matters is how much is government spending this term, how much taxes it collects, and how big will the budget deficit be. There is no such thing as long term planning when it comes to Congress.

    Look at the immigration bill. President Obama is demanding a 100% win for the Democrats (amnesty for millions of illegal aliens today) with the promise that changes to border security, employer enforcement, etc in the future. Yet, everyone knows that whatever promises the Democrats are making willnever be honored and that Democrats will change the law the second they get the chance.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Tillman: True. Like I said in Doug’s SOTU thread, “Yeah, their approval rating might drop to like 13%. Look at how the shutdown hurt them in the mid-terms.” It’s two years to the next election and the memory of the electorate doesn’t stretch to six months.

  17. Davebo says:


    Look at the immigration bill. President Obama is demanding a 100% win for the Democrats (amnesty for millions of illegal aliens today) with the promise that changes to border security, employer enforcement, etc in the future.

    You read into the senate bill some provision for amnesty for millions of illegal aliens?

    Or did you just read some wing nut who claimed the bill had such a provision and believed him or her?

    If ignorance is bliss you must be freaking ecstatic!

  18. superdestroyer says:


    Comprehensive immigration reform is not only amnesty for millions of illegal aliens with waiverable requriements to eventually become a citizen. However, those who are not interested in becoming citizens still get to stay. There is also a doubling of legal immigration to over 2 million people a year.

    What is amazing is how the Democrats and progressives can talk about comprehensive immigration reform in one context while talking about increasing real wages for Americans in another context. Increased immigration means lower wages, not higher wages.

  19. JohnMcC says:

    @superdestroyer: You are saying, then, that it was Dems who DEMANDED that 700 miles of the southern border be fenced before a single ‘amnesty’ can even be applied for. And you are saying that the Administration DEMANDED that some 39,000 Border Patrol officers be actually deployed along that barren stretch before a single ‘amnesty’ can be applied for. And you are saying that liberals are responsible for DEMANDING that E-Verify be actually operating before a single ‘amnesty’ can be applied for. And you are saying that Dems in the House refused to allow these border security steps to be taken.

    You do not know what you are talking about.

    I really try not to feed the troll. But sometimes your ignorance is so amazing that I cannot help myself,.

    But…have a nice day. And please — try to do a little background reading before metaphorically opening your mouth. If it would help, your problem is with Senators McCain, Graham, Rubio and Flake. The bill is S-744. It passed with 14 Repub Senators voting for it. The House refused to consider it. The executive order merely prioritizes enforcement away from the least disruptive and most settled of our undocumented neighbors, those whose children are American citizens. The alternative you seem to be in favor of is deporting the family members of your fellow Americans. If that is your ‘solution’ — shame on you, Sir.

  20. Tony W says:

    Boehner: “Don’t make me kill this kitten”