DHS Funding Debate Starts: Main House Bill to Defund Immigration Orders Gets Jeff Sessions' Support
WASHINGTON -- At the end of the 114th Congress, Republicans got a concession in the year-end spending bill that set a Feb. 27 expiration date for Department of Homeland Security funding so they could pass a bill defunding President Obama's immigration executive order with GOP majorities in both chambers.
That legislation is soon coming to the floor, but the overall debate over DHS funding will assuredly be colored by this week's terrorist attack on Paris.
Before the debate even starts, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today that he doesn't see a DHS shutdown on the horizon over a funding disagreement.
"Republicans are in agreement that this is a gravely serious matter. The president's unilateral actions were an affront to the rule of law and our system of government. The American people don't support it. And as their representatives, we cannot let it stand," Boehner told reporters today. "I said we'd fight it tooth and nail when we had new majorities in the House and Senate, and I meant it."
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has been warning that his department's funding is at risk at a critical time of national security threats, but Boehner stressed, "I don't believe that the funding of the department is in fact at risk."
"What is at risk is the rule of law and the sanctity of America's Constitution. The president has taken actions that are beyond the scope of his ability and Congress cannot just sit here and look the other way. We have to take action and we will," Boehner continued. "The issue isn't about funding the Department of Homeland Security. Members of Congress support funding the department. But we cannot continue to allow the president to go around the Congress and go around the law and take unilateral action like he has."
The main House bill comes from Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who introduced the legislation when he was sworn Tuesday.
"It not only defunds the president’s actions towards amnesty but also removes the president’s discretion in the ability to grant work permits, Social Security, and other federal benefits that go along with his order," Aderholt said. “My legislation will also put limits on the president’s future ability to enact such wide-reaching actions that circumvent the Constitution’s separation of powers. It returns the legislative authority of our government back to the legislative branch."
“As we begin this new session of Congress, it will be the president’s first experience working with a Congress entirely controlled by the Republicans. I hope that Mr. Obama understands that the American people spoke very loudly during the election in November and want a new direction away from his liberal policies.”
Aderholt's bill got a key conservative endorsement from Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
"It would block funds for the President’s illegal scheme; surely, Congress should not fund an illegal act that eliminates our constitutional role as a lawmaking body," Sessions said.
"Further, the Aderholt bill would take steps to address one of the most serious problems now unfolding: the mass release of illegal immigrants who show up at the border into the interior of the country. Approximately 99 percent of the Central American youth and adult relatives who showed up unlawfully this year presently remain in the United States. No ‘border security’ plan can succeed that does not begin to end the destructive practice of catch-and-release."
Sessions added that "simply providing the president with more money for ‘border security’ will be turned into a slush fund to resettle illegal immigrants in the interior of the United States."
Aderholt introduced the bill with Reps. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Lou Barletta (R-Pa.). Smith called it a "reasonable response" to Obama's "extreme" actions.
The bill cuts off funding for Obama's 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and would reinstate the Secure Communities program, stopped by Johnson in November, to remove criminal aliens.
Going back to last summer's flood of Central and South American immigrant minors, the bill amends the 2008 William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act to treat those illegally crossing the border from non-contiguous countries the same as Mexican and Canadian minors.
"Previous actions invited the deadly surge at our Southern border this summer. We must restore the rule of law and right the wrongs this president has inflicted on the American people and our immigration system," Smith said. "His actions cannot go unanswered."
The companion bill introduced in the Senate today comes from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the new chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"The bill takes important steps toward fixing rules that have been abused for too long, ensuring enforcement of our immigration laws, and eliminating the policies that led to the surge at our southern border last summer. While this bill doesn’t address all immigration problems, it is an important first step," Johnson said.
“I also look forward to Secretary Johnson’s response to fundamental questions about the president’s unilateral action, which was specifically designed to circumvent Congress’ role. Answers to these questions will inform my committee as it fulfills its constitutional role of oversight.”
The Rules Committee hasn't hashed out the bill yet, but Boehner said he "suspects" there will be room for amendments. In December, Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) denied Rep. Mick Mulvaney's (R-S.C.) cromnibus amendment to defund the immigration executive actions, saying that they were running out of time and couldn't add anything "extraneous" to the spending bill.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced his own bill today, the "Defund Executive Amnesty Act."
"My bill defunds all of the president's illegal and unconstitutional actions regarding immigration,” said King. “Beginning with the Morton Memos and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and covering all of his most recent illegal and unconstitutional acts to expand DACA to 5 million more illegal immigrants."
"To make sure President Obama doesn't attempt to find other ways to circumvent the Constitution, my bill also has a catch-all provision that bars any similar actions in the future and has language to make it clear illegal immigrants are not authorized to work in the United States. This preserves the Constitution, reinforces the separation of powers, and fulfills Republican promises to the American people in the 2014 election."