Why The GOP Is Likely To Cave In The Fight Against Obama’s Immigration Law Changes

Even with a House and Senate majority, the GOP is unlikely to get what it wants in its current immigration battle with the President.

border-immigrants-crossing

Yesterday House Republicans launched their opening move in their war against the President’s announcement of deferred action on deportation of illegal immigrants with the passage of a bill that purports to revoke the changes to the law that the President made via executive action: 

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Wednesday to gut major provisions of President Obama’s immigration policy, approving legislation that would revoke legal protections for millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, and put them at risk of deportation.

The vote drew condemnation from Democrats and the White House and led more than two dozen Republicans, many worried about the perception that the party is hostile to immigrants, to break away and vote no.

The most contentious measures in the bill are certain to die in the Senate, where Democrats have said they will wage a filibuster and some Republicans are likely to join in opposition. Mr. Obama has said he would not sign legislation that undermined the immigration changes he has carried out through executive action.

The House vote offered the first signs of how the new Republican-led Congress will navigate the bitter debate over the president’s directives, as well as evidence of emerging fissures in a party that has prided itself on nearly unanimous opposition to the president.

Because Republicans have said that they will use the $40 billion funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security as their vehicle for dismantling Mr. Obama’s action, Congress faces another deadline that seems likely to force an accommodation before the department’s money is due to run out at the end of February.

Yet, in just their second week of control on Capitol Hill, Republicans on Wednesday were forced to address questions about whether the party again would be hobbled by internal disagreements over immigration policy. And they were faced with an unwelcome distraction from their message of governing responsibly and cooperatively: explaining why the vote on Wednesday should not be seen as an insult to Hispanics, a constituency Republicans lost by more than two to one in the 2012 presidential election and have been trying to woo since.

In the House, 26 Republicans voted against an amendment to effectively undo Mr. Obama’s 2012 executive action that allowed immigrants who had entered the United States illegally as children to stay. The amendment just barely passed with 218 votes, a few more than it needed. No Democrats voted yes.

The overarching funding bill for Homeland Security passed, 236 to 191, with 10 Republican defections. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, was expected to meet with his members over the next few days to discuss how to move forward with the bill, including whether they could amend it, strip out some of its more contentious amendments and send it back to the House.

Republicans who supported the legislation said there was nothing cruel about their intentions. The debate was not about immigration, many of them insisted on Wednesday, but about a president who had exceeded his authority by rewriting immigration law without Congress’s consent.

“By their votes last November, the people made clear they want more accountability from this president — enough is enough,” said Speaker John A. Boehner before the vote. “By our votes here today, we will heed their will.”

Representative Marsha Blackburn, the Tennessee Republican who sponsored the amendment to end the legal protection Mr. Obama gave in 2012 to immigrants who came to the country as children, said, “We are either a nation of laws, or we are lawless.”

Aside from removing those legal protections, the bill would also effectively reverse the president’s executive action from late last year that allowed immigrants who have lived here illegally for at least five years to apply for work permits and avoid deportation. The House measure would prohibit the use of any government funds to pay for the manpower needed to carry out that directive, like processing applications and permits.

As the article goes on to note, this is only the beginning of the battle over the President’s immigration policy that will play out over the coming weeks. In addition to possible additional measures in the House, the bill that passed yesterday must now go on to the Senate. The first question there will be whether the bill goes through the committee process or heads straight to the Senate floor for consideration by the full Senate. The recent promises of incoming GOP leadership to rely more often on “regular order” would suggest that the proper procedure would be to send the bill through the committee process, but going that way on this bill is complicated by the fact that this bill must be passed by the end of February in order for the Department of Homeland Security to continue to be funded. Pushing the bill through committee could potentially slow it down so much that there would be little room for error before spending authority runs out, and also raises the threat that proceeding in this  manner would weight the bill down with amendments that would make reconciliation with the House version of the bill, or even passage in the Senate. So, expect this bill to go directly to the floor, but that’s where the real problems start for the GOP.

As most observers expected, Republicans did not use their new found control of the Senate to make any further changes to the filibuster rules. This means that they will need to pick up sixty votes in order to pass the House bill, with any modifications that may be made on the Senate floor, which means finding at least five Democrats willing to support a bill that curtails the President’s immigration policy. At first glance, that seems quite unlikely, so the most likely outcome right now is that this current bill dies in the Senate, probably sometime in late January if not earlier. Even if the bill passed the Senate, though, the bill would most assuredly be vetoed by President Obama, and it is exceedingly clear that there aren’t enough votes in either chamber of Congress to overturn an expected veto. In the House, there were 26 Republicans who voted against the measure, but even if every Republican voted to override the veto, the GOP would still be some 44 votes short of a veto override.. In the Senate, they’d need to convince 12 Democrats to override the President’s veto. So even if the bill passed the Senate somehow, it would still die and the ball would be back in the GOP’s court.

At that point, the GOP would have to decide whether it wants to push the matter of opposition to the President’s immigration actions further by continuing to refuse to pass a “clean” funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, in which case that department will be forced to rely solely on emergency funds after the end of February, or they will reluctantly concede that the defunding option has failed. It would, in other words, be the government shutdown debate all over again except that it would be focused solely on one part of the government. The problem that the GOP faces is that the department in question also happens to be the one primarily responsible for everything from the nation’s response to terrorist threats and natural disasters to Presidential security, the processing of immigration applications for legal immigrants, and the border patrol. Will Republicans really be willing to put all of this at risk over their dispute with the President?

Jennifer Rubin finds it unlikely that they would:

[U]ltimately, I cannot imagine that Republicans will allow the DHS to go unfunded; the stakes are too high. For Senate leaders, the key will be to stand by the majority leader’s promise of open debate; for the backbenchers, it will be whether they can at the end of the day be responsible stewards of government or whether the temptation to vilify leaders as sellouts and scoundrels is too enticing.

The resolution of this will test the unity and sanity of the Senate Republican majority. More to the point, it will present Cruz and his ilk with a nettlesome issue: What happens when you just don’t have the votes to do what you want?

As I noted when I wrote about this last week, I tend to agree that this is how things are likely to turn out, especially in light of the Paris terror attacks and continued reports about other ongoing threats of attacks in Europe, Australia, and the United States. As with past government shutdowns, Republicans apparently think that they will be able to pin responsibility for a shutdown on the President and Democrats, but as we saw in October, it’s typically the party that’s seen as unwilling to compromise that gets the blame and, in this case, that’s likely to be the GOP, especially since polling indicates that, at least on substance, the public tends to support the President on immigration rather than the Republican Party. The overriding issue, though, is that it is difficult to me to see how the GOP can positively spin the idea that it is holding up funding for a wide variety of security related funding over what likely seems to many like a fairly minor dispute over immigration policy between the Executive and Legislative Branches. Indeed, I’d hazard a guess that most Americans are going to think its more important that the agency primarily responsible for detecting and deterring terrorist attacks be fully funded, as will a significant number of Republicans in both chambers of Congress. Given this, my guess is that, in the end, the GOP will back down, pass a “clean” bill to fund DHS, and be forced to look for another avenue to challenge the President’s immigration actions. This isn’t going to make the Tea Party happy, of course, but it seems fairly clear that they are going to have to learn fairly quickly that even having a majority in Congress doesn’t mean the GOP is going to get everything it wants.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, National Security, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    James:
    As with past government shutdowns, Republicans apparently think that they will be able to pin responsibility for a shutdown on the President and Democrats, but as we saw in October, it’s typically the party that’s seen as unwilling to compromise that gets the blame and, in this case, that’s likely to be the GOP, especially since polling indicates that, at least on substance, the public tends to support the President on immigration rather than the Republican Party.

    Normally I’d say that your take on this is dead on, however this is not a normal political environment, it is so binary, the lines are drawn.

    Given that the Right has not paid a political price for their two recent government shutdowns, I’d say that for now the Republican Congress is free to pursue their hard-nosed, brass-knuckles agenda. It motivates their base, and despite consistent polling that shows their approval ratings at record low levels the voters have decided to give control of Congress to Republicans.

  2. In the sense that I “caved” on my fight against Gravity by not floating above the ground today.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    A significant percentage -probably the majority – of the Republican party feels pleasure at the prospect of children who have grown up in this country, speak only English, and have never visited the land of their birth, being dragged from classrooms and shipped off to Guatemala. And they are even more happy at the prospect that American-born children will have their parents arrested and expelled from the country, leaving those American children effectively orphaned.

    That’s what this is about. The depraved, immoral, sadistic creeps who dominate the GOP, need to hear that some brown people will suffer.

    This was the top of the Republican agenda.

  4. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Actually the top of the Republican agenda was:
    1). Declare war on Math
    2). Attack Roe v. Wade
    3). Shorten the life-expectancy of SS

    Making brown people suffer was at least fourth in line.

  5. Tyrell says:

    While I disagree with the Republican strategy concerning the illegal immigration problem, I think that any blanket amnesty program would be an insult and stab in the back to those people who went the system, followed the laws, waited their turn while in internment camps, and paid their dues to get in this country. Most Americans are against the president’s plan, and were displeased and flabbergasted with the illegal immigrant filled buses that were rolling into this country last year like it was Saturday morning at the theme park. Some politicians were saying “come on in, welcome ! Just don’t stop in our state !” These people were shamelessly dumped on states , cities , and small towns with no help coming from the federal government. November came and the people remembered that, and other disastrous misteps of the president, which have become all too common and brought ruin to the national Democrat party.
    New definitions: unauthorized bank withdrawal – previously known as a bank robbery, unauthorized over use of accelerator pedal – used to be called speeding, unauthorized creative use of a copy machine – sometimes still called counterfeiting.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    I think that any blanket amnesty program would be an insult and stab in the back to those people who went the system

    No one has proposed or implemented such a program.

    Most Americans are against the president’s plan

    Most Americans are for the President’s plan.

    flabbergasted with the illegal immigrant filled buses that were rolling into this country last year

    Please provide evidence of even one such bus.

    These people were shamelessly dumped on states , cities , and small towns with no help coming from the federal government.

    Finding federal assistance took less than 3 seconds on google.

    November came and the people remembered that

    November was one of the lowest turnouts in an election. Most people didn’t give a sh*t.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    any blanket amnesty program

    Please provide a credible link to anyone calling for a blanket amnesty program.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    November was one of the lowest turnouts in an election.

    And on top of that…the newly elected Democratic Senators got 20 million more votes than the newly elected Republican Senators.
    http://www.vox.com/2015/1/3/7482635/senate-small-states

  9. Rick DeMent says:

    @Tyrell:

    While I disagree with the Republican strategy concerning the illegal immigration problem, I think that any blanket amnesty program would be an insult and stab in the back to those people who went the system, followed the laws, waited their turn while in internment camps, and paid their dues to get in this country.

    And yet if you polled those people I’m going to guess that a large majority would support the presidents actions. And if the Republicans were so keen on giving justice to those put upon souls why not just pass a bill? Problem solved.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    November came and the people remembered that, and other disastrous misteps of the president, which have become all too common and brought ruin to the national Democrat party.

    To my knowledge, there is no “Democrat party,’ there is however a Democratic Party.

    Also, isn’t it interesting that the Republican Party engineered 2 shutdowns of the Federal government in the past 5 years, and while doing so considered a possible default on Federal debt to be a trifle, yet the national Republican Party is, according to you and others, not in ruins. Go figure.

  11. Ron Beasley says:

    What few people fail to recognize is that if all the Hispanics, illegal and legal, were deprorted we would all starve to death.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Ron Beasley:
    Imagine the economic catastrophe deporting 11 million people would set off.
    You don’t have to be stupid to be a Republican…but if you’re stupid, odds are that you’re a Republican

  13. Tyrell says:
  14. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    The one I always enjoy asking those folks is this:

    “What would be the economic impact of removing 12 million consumers from the economy, i.e. what happens when 12 million folks who were previously spending money every month on food, gas, housing, electricity, cars, etc. just suddenly stop doing so?”

    If you guessed “a recession”, you’d be correct, but in their weird parallel ‘water isn’t wet” world, somehow it would cause an economic boom. You can’t reason with people who refuse to employ reason in the first place. It’s pointless.

  15. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    Seriously – you cite Newsmax and Hotair as evidence of what the majority of the population thinks?

    Seriously???

    And yet you wonder why the rest of the party has essentially written the South off …

  16. Rick DeMent says:

    @Tyrell:

    you assume that these people are “illegal” … prove it.

  17. grumpy realist says:

    Totally OT, but I hope this gets some attention.

    (But Romney has made a lot of money, so we should just all bow to him and let him get away with no questions.)

  18. LaMont says:

    Yet, in just their second week of control on Capitol Hill, Republicans on Wednesday were forced to address questions about whether the party again would be hobbled by internal disagreements over immigration policy. And they were faced with an unwelcome distraction from their message of governing responsibly and cooperatively: explaining why the vote on Wednesday should not be seen as an insult to Hispanics, a constituency Republicans lost by more than two to one in the 2012 presidential election and have been trying to woo since.

    Mark my words – this paragraph will be emblematic of the Republican led Congress for the next two years!

  19. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:
    So your

    “illegal immigrant filled buses that were rolling into this country last year like it was Saturday morning at the theme park”

    are actually Government buses with about 140 people, that were already in detention, on them?
    Your sources for

    “Most Americans are against the president’s plan”

    are right wing nut-job sites. Actually what the polling shows is that most Americans like his plan…but not his approach…an approach forced by Republicans who refuse to act.
    http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/26/politics/cnn-immigration-poll/
    And on top of all that nonsense…you refuse to back up your claim about blanket amnesty.

    It is impossible to reason with people who do not come to their beliefs through reason. For folks like you it is really about emotion rather than a rational position. Fear and hate cannot be overcome with facts and logic.

  20. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Tyrell:

    With the buses, I inferred from your comment that you meant buses were pulling up to towns to drop off illegal immigrants, not that buses were simply trying to get to other processing facilities. My apologies if I mistook your meaning, although all the articles you point to show that there were, literally, “dozens” of people protesting, so I still don’t think this shows the groundswell of opposition you think it does. Thirty six people does not a movement make.

    The Bloomberg poll shows a majority of people are against the way the plan is implemented–executive action, timing of congress, etc–not the details of the plan itself. The CNN poll I linked to shows the same thing.

    And the hotair article you linked to doesn’t even try to cover THAT part. They literally just point to the President’s (old) approval rating and state–without supporting evidence–that it is because of illegal immigrants.

    I’ll give you credit for at least trying to back up your assertions–which is rare for you–but you still failed. People support the immigration plan, and the hordes of protesters really were just dozens.

  21. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    With the buses,
    I inferred from your comment that you meant buses were pulling up to towns to drop off illegal immigrants, not that buses were simply trying to get to other processing facilities.

    Nevermind, that’s exactly what he meant:

    These people were shamelessly dumped on states , cities , and small towns

    So, @Tyrell, you want to try again? Where were these buses that were just dumping people into towns with no help from the government? Because what you linked to were buses going to processing facilities, and if I’m not mistaken that is a far cry different than what you described.

  22. Grumpy Realist says:

    I seem to remember that at least one set of those protestors surrounded a bus filled with perfectly legal schoolchildren and terrified them.

    So lynch mobs are now supposed to determine who is and is not an American?

  23. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Unrelated FYI:

    SCOTUS today granted certiorari to the 6th Circuit SSM cases, which they have consolidated for hearing.

    Interestingly, the court has limited the grant of cert to two strictly 14th Amendment questions. Stay tuned folks – it’s about to get entertaining.

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @HarvardLaw92:
    It would be interesting to get your take on this…in English.

  25. Tyrell says:

    @al-Ameda: The Southern Democrat party if you please.

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Tyrell:

    aka “Republicans in everything but name”

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    In English:

    The court has the option to grant or deny certiorari to any appeal presented to it – in other words, it can choose to hear or not to hear virtually any appeal that is presented to it (some issues are automatic, but those are beyond the scope of this discussion).

    Every appeals circuit other than the 6th Circuit has ruled in favor of SSM, and every one of those appeals rulings has been petitioned to SCOTUS for certiorari. SCOTUS denied every one of those petitions – in practical terms, it allowed the rulings from those circuits in favor of SSM to stand, which puts the rulings into force and pretty much forces every state within those circuits to implement SSM – whether they want to or not.

    They have granted certiorari on 4 ruling arising from the 6th Circuit.

    What this means:

    A grant of certiorari requires 4 affirmative votes. Any 4 justices voting yes can force the court to hear an appeal. That every pro-SSM petition was denied tells us that there were not 4 votes to review those cases. Some of this stems from the fact that SCOTUS likes to wait until there is a split between circuits before agreeing to hear an issue. The broader analysis is that the likely situation is that Kennedy is falling on the pro-SSM side, so we’re probably looking at a worst case scenario of 5 to 4 in favor of SSM. Roberts may surprise us and make it 6 to 3, but at this point it’s arguably a foregone conclusion that we’ll see nationwide SSM implemented by mid-year.