House Republicans are taking broad steps to overturn President Barack Obama's immigration policies and remove protections for immigrants brought illegally to the country as kids.
Votes were set Wednesday on legislation worth nearly $40 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year.
Republicans were voting on one amendment to undo executive actions Obama announced in November that provided temporary deportation relief to some 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. Another amendment would delete Obama's 2012 policy that's granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as kids.
Republicans say Obama's moves amounted to an unconstitutional overreach that must be stopped. The changes Obama announced in November especially enraged the GOP because they came not long after Republicans swept the midterm elections, taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House. Republicans pledged then to revisit the issue once Congress was fully under their control.
"We're voting to block the president's overreach, his executive overreach, which I believe is beyond his constitutional duty and, frankly, violates the Constitution itself," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "This is not the way our government was intended to work. ... Our job is to listen to the American people and hold the president accountable."
But even with Republicans in control of the Senate the bill faces tough chances there, especially because House GOP leaders decided to satisfy demands from conservative members by including a vote to undo the 2012 policy that deals with younger immigrants known as "Dreamers." The amendment, which is opposed by some of the more moderate Republicans in the House, would ultimately expose those young people to deportation.
Republicans are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation in the Senate, and even some Republicans in the Senate have expressed unease with the House GOP approach, especially given the importance of funding the Homeland Security Department in light of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Some House Republicans acknowledged that the Senate was likely to reject their approach, perhaps forcing them in the end to pass a Homeland Security funding bill stripped of controversial provisions on immigration.
"They're not going to pass this bill," Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said in predicting the Senate outcome.
Homeland Security money expires at the end of February so House leaders have left themselves some weeks to reach the end game.
Obama has threatened to veto the House bill, and Democrats roundly denounced it, even as immigrant advocates warned Republicans they risked alienating Latino voters who will be crucial to the 2016 presidential election.
"Just two weeks into this new Congress, Republicans have turned a bipartisan issue, funding our Department of Homeland Security, into a cesspool of despicable amendments that cater to the most extremist anti-immigrant fringe," Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., said in a House debate.
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