Immigration Order Imminent: What's GOP's Next Move?

WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans and President Obama are racing toward a showdown over immigration that could result in another governmental shutdown, impeachment proceedings or both.

Obama returned to Washington from Australia on Sunday after attending the G20 summit and now is expected to issue an executive order by the end of the week, if not sooner, that the White House has hinted will, among other things, postpone the deportation of as many as 5 million undocumented aliens and allow them to obtain work permits.

Specifically, sources suggest, the plan will expand a program that permits illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children to remain and work on a temporary basis. It also likely will permit individuals who crossed the border illegally and had children while living in the states, thus making those children American citizens, to stay.

Additional steps are still being contemplated, like stricter border enforcement measures.

The president has consistently maintained that he is taking action only because the Republican-led House is dragging its feet and has failed to consider a bipartisan measure that passed the Senate last year. If the House acts, Obama has said he will rescind the directive.

“I can’t wait in perpetuity when I have authorities that, at least for the next two years, can improve the system, can allow us to shift more resources to the border rather than separating families, improve the legal immigration system,” Obama told reporters before leaving Australia. “I would be derelict in my duties if I did not try to improve the system that everybody acknowledges is broken.”

But legislative Republicans, fresh off overwhelming victories in the Nov. 4 election that provided them with majorities in both the House and Senate when the 114th Congress convenes in January, said any presidential order on immigration will dirty the waters, rendering action on the issue even more difficult while further deteriorating their already strained relations with the president.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that he isn’t looking for a government shutdown but he asserted that “all options are on the table” in the effort to prevent any unilateral action from the president, and he is discussing potential strategies with GOP lawmakers.

"We're going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path,” Boehner said. “This is the wrong way to govern.”

Boehner added that Republicans want to “stop the president from violating his own oath of office and violating the Constitution. It's not to shut down the government."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, who will lead the majority in the next Congress, has also warned the president of potential consequences if he proceeds sans congressional approval. But McConnell has vowed to keep the federal government operating regardless of what action Obama might take.

“Let me make it clear – there will be no government shutdowns and no default on the national debt,” McConnell said the day after winning election to a sixth term.

But McConnell could face some pushback from the delegation he has been selected to lead. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is expected to assume the chairmanship of the Senate Budget Committee, characterized the potential for an executive order on immigration as “shocking” and is pressing the GOP leadership to seek only a short-term budget that will keep the government open only through the beginning of next year to exert pressure on the White House.

“The president cannot, having had his policies defeated at the ballot box, impose them through executive decree,” Sessions said. “A Republican Congress will defend itself and our citizens from these lawless actions. Surrendering to illegality is not an option. Democrats will have to choose sides -- protect the president's agenda or protect your constituents. Americans do not want their borders erased.”