House Republicans on Wednesday night watered down legislation that is aimed at nullifying President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration, prompting one Republican to grumble that the House needs to take a tougher stance against Obama.
The House is on track to pass the bill by the end of the day Thursday — so far, it's the GOP's only legislative response to Obama's immigration action. The bill attempts to nullify Obama's decision to give millions of illegal immigrations protected status and let them work temporarily in the United States.
The bill has already faced criticism from within Republican ranks, because it will not be attached to a must-pass spending bill that will come up next week. That means the Senate will be free to ignore the immigration bill after it clears the House.
New criticisms came up Thursday morning, after it became clear that House Republicans made several tweaks to the bill before it was approved by the House Rules Committee. For example, the original bill from Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) was called the "Executive Amnesty Prevention Act."
But the Rules Committee version is now called the "Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration Act." Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said on the House floor that he wasn't happy with the name change.
"Tones it down a little bit, for me," he said.
King also made a more substantive complaint — that a new section inserted in the bill states that "prosecutorial discretion generally ought to be applied on a case-by-case basis and not to whole categories of persons."
King argued that legally, prosecutorial discretion can only be applied on a case-by-case basis, and said the "ought to be" language weakens that legal concept. King indicated that this language seems to conflict with language later on in the bill that says the government "shall not" exempt whole categories of people from immigration laws.
"This bill amounts to a resolution of disagreement with the president," King said. "I don't think it makes it clear enough that the president clearly violated the Constitution of the United States. I don't want this to be into the record as something that's ambiguous."
The Rules Committee made another change relating to when the law would take effect. The legislation would essentially prevent the executive branch from violating immigration laws, including by exempting categories of people from these laws.
Yoho's original version said the bill is retroactive, and would apply to "any such exemption made at any time." But the new bill as approved by the Rules Committee said the bill would take effect as of November 20, the date Obama announced his immigration decision.
While the House is likely to pass the new bill later today, passage is unlikely to stop King and other Republicans from asking GOP leaders to include language in the spending bill that stops Obama from implementing his immigration action. On Wednesday, King spoke with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who argued that Republicans need to attach language to the spending bill to ensure it becomes law, and said failure to do so would be a violation of the GOP's campaign promises to fight Obama.