When President Obama announced his unilateral mass amnesty back in November, Republicans on Capitol Hill were virtually unanimous in decrying it as an assault on the Constitution and the rule of law. Unfortunately, they have yet to come up with a workable strategy for blocking it.
Their original strategy was to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of February and then, once they had a Senate majority, use a DHS-spending bill as a vehicle to reverse the president’s diktat. Earlier this month, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would authorize money for DHS operations but would explicitly de-fund the implementation of Obama’s 2014 amnesty, his 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and various non-enforcement policies outlined in memos from former ICE director John Morton.
The problem is that such legislation is dead on arrival in the Senate, where Democrats have made it clear they will mount a filibuster. (The vote is scheduled for next Tuesday.) As Hill correspondent Alexander Bolton reports, this reality has left GOP congressional leaders “boxed in on immigration and searching for a way out.”
While Republicans consider their options, they should give serious thought to a strategy proposed by the editors of National Review, which would address only the 2014 amnesty but would place Obama — and Senate Democrats — in a more difficult position:
Pass one bill to fund all of DHS except for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is responsible for implementing the president’s amnesty, and another bill that funds CIS but prohibits it from implementing the November amnesty.
The pressure will be on the president to sign the DHS funding bill, and a protracted fight over CIS funding carries little downside for Republicans and Democrats who oppose the president’s order. The agency receives enough in fees to perform almost all its activities without congressional appropriations. This strategy would permit Republicans to avoid complicity in an unconstitutional policy and might make the president pay a political price for blocking a bill that would tell immigration officers to do their jobs rather than implement amnesty.
There may well be other acceptable, effective ways to confront the president’s power grab. The one unacceptable option: watching the current DHS proposal fail and then proposing a new ‘clean’ funding bill. Voting to fund an agency that is implementing an unconstitutional order without cavil would amount to surrender. Republicans can and should do better, for the sake of our constitutional order and the people who live under it.