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Spending Deal Near After GOP Immigration Vote

Friday, 05 Dec 2014 06:54 AM

Congress is a step closer to funding most of the U.S. government through September 2015 with a plan that sidesteps Tea Party opposition and pushes the fight over immigration policy to the new Republican Congress.

After yesterday’s symbolic House vote to protest President Barack Obama’s order easing deportation of undocumented immigrants, appropriations leaders in both parties will work today to complete a spending bill with votes expected next week. Democrats and Republicans said they’ll keep the government open after Dec. 11, when current funding expires.

House Speaker John Boehner devised the two-step strategy to keep Tea Party members from using the funding bill to vent their frustration over Obama’s executive orders. The real battle over immigration will come next year, when Republicans also control the Senate, Boehner of Ohio said yesterday.

“The House will work to keep the government open while keeping our leverage so that when we have reinforcements in the Senate, we’re in the strongest position to take additional actions to fight the president’s unilateral actions,” Boehner told reporters.

That strategy “gives us the best chance for success,” he said.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, a Kentucky Republican, said he and Senate counterpart Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, plan today to “sign off on the final deal” to finance the government.

Disagreements remain over a series of unrelated policy measures that Republicans want to attach and Democrats oppose.

Homeland Security

Under Boehner’s plan, the Department of Homeland Security, with primary responsibility for immigration policy, would be funded only into March 2015.

That sets up a clash early next year, when he and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will face more pressure from the expanded Republican majority to retaliate against Obama’s action.

The timing also would let Republicans try to advance border security and immigration measures such as expanding visas for high-skilled workers.

“The smart thing for Republicans to do next year is to pass a strong border security bill, coupled with pro-reform initiatives that address issues like high-tech visas, and challenge Democrats to oppose it,” said Republican strategist Brian Walsh. Republicans “need to demonstrate that they are willing to lead on long-overdue issues like this.”

Such a strategy would be intended to limit political fallout from the Hispanic community following Republicans’ assault on Obama’s orders.

Possible Repercussions

Immigration activists are warning of repercussions after yesterday’s House vote to block Obama’s immigration orders. The Democratic-led Senate won’t take up the bill.

“This is not a fight between Republicans and the president,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, immigration policy director of the National Council of La Raza. “We will hold accountable anyone who chooses to play politics with people’s lives.”

Enactment of spending legislation next week would mark a victory for Boehner’s ability to prevent a rebellion among Tea Party-backed Republicans after the November election.

Tea Party Republicans’ bid to use a spending bill to defund Obamacare led to a 16-day partial government shutdown in October 2013.

2013 Shutdown

Boehner’s approach is a rebuke of Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who led the drive for the 2013 shutdown. Cruz had called for a short-term spending bill to block Obama’s immigration orders through funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.

Allies of Cruz said they’re not giving up.

“The entire constitutional structure is at stake,” said Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who led opposition in the Senate. “I don’t think we should be timid about it.”

Separately, Representative Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said that “leadership, to their credit, is listening.”

In a minor concession to some Republicans, House leaders are considering a revision that would move up the fight over immigration funding after Congress reconvenes in January. Congress can seek to defund parts of the Homeland Security agency tasked with carrying out Obama’s orders.

Boehner may agree to move the expiration date of that agency’s funds to February instead of March, said a Republican aide who sought anonymity to describe the private talks.

Undocumented Immigrants

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate won’t consider the House bill that passed yesterday, H.R. 5759, which would deny the president authority to protect undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from deportation.

“It tears families apart while doing nothing to fix the real problems we face,” Reid said in a statement.

Democrats want to cut from the spending bill at least 70 Republican-sponsored provisions that would poke holes in Obama’s policies on the environment, health care and other matters.

A previously skeptical Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, yesterday signaled that the funding bill is likely to get members’ support if Boehner entertains some Democratic demands.

In the Senate, Reid said he would be open to Boehner’s approach if Republican leaders could gather enough House votes to advance it.

Obama announced Nov. 20 that he would temporarily halt deportations for about 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. His directive will defer for three years the deportation of people who came to the U.S. as children as well as parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents.

The Department of Homeland Security will streamline the visa process for foreign workers and their employers and give high-skilled workers more flexible work authorization.


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Congress is a step closer to funding most of the U.S. government through September 2015 with a plan that sidesteps Tea Party opposition and pushes the fight over immigration policy to the new Republican Congress.After yesterday's symbolic House vote to protest President...
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2014-54-05
Friday, 05 Dec 2014 06:54 AM
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