House Republicans return from their Thanksgiving break with a critical question to answer — will they try to use a government spending bill to stop President Barack Obama's immigration action, or not?
Republicans will address that question when they meet Tuesday to discuss strategy.
House Speaker John Boehner and other House leaders will have to decide in the coming days whether and how to put limits on President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration.
Image: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Congress is under pressure to pass a spending bill before December 11, when funding runs out. But anger over Obama's executive action on immigration has led many Republicans to demand some kind of language that stops the implementation of that plan.
Before leaving, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised that "the House will, in fact, act" in some way. He and other Republicans have said Obama's move to give temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, and allow them to work, violates the Constitution by essentially re-writing immigration law with no involvement from Congress.
On the spending side, talks have continued over the break, and members are closer to approving a full-year spending bill for the rest of fiscal year 2015. In some form or another, that bill is expected to be up on the House floor by next week.
Still unclear, however, is whether and how Republicans can attack Obama's immigration move.
One possible idea is to fully fund the government, but fund the parts of the government that deal with immigration — primarily the Department of Homeland Security — for shorter periods of time. That could give Congress more flexibility to deal with the administration as Obama's plan takes effect.
Several House aides told TheBlaze that no decisions have been made as of early this week. But one observer said putting DHS on a short-term leash may not work so well.
Dan Holler of Heritage Action noted that much of DHS is considered to be "essential" government spending, which means they would continue to operate even if a fight over immigration led to an impasse over DHS spending. For that reason, he told TheBlaze there is "not a lot of leverage in in holding DHS hostage."
A shorter-term spending bill for the entire government may therefore be required, since many Republicans are unlikely to support a longer-term bill that doesn't adequately limit Obama's immigration plan.
A short-term bill has the benefit of forcing Congress to act again early next year, when Republicans control both the House and the Senate.
Key parts of Obama's plan are expected to take three to six months to implement, which means Republicans have some time to talk to GOP members and figure out the best course of action.
Over all these discussions looms the possibility of a government shutdown. That's possible this year, if the Democratic Senate refuses to accept any language that limits Obama's executive action, or next year, if a GOP Congress passes some limitation that Obama refuses to sign into law.
Republican leaders have said so far, however, that they will not allow a government shutdown to happen again.