WASHINGTON U.S. House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday declined to rule out withholding funds to try to block President Barack Obama from taking unilateral action to ease U.S. immigration policies, a move that could lead to another government shutdown fight.
Boehner, speaking to reporters after House Republicans voted to keep him as speaker for another two years, said "all options are on the table" to thwart an Obama immigration order but no decisions had been made.
"We are going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path," Boehner said. "So all of the options are on the table."
Asked if a government shutdown was off the table over the issue, Boehner said: "Our goal here is to stop the president from violating his own oath of office and from violating the Constitution. It is not to shut down the government."
Sixty-two House Republicans have signed a letter circulated by Representative Matt Salmon demanding that a new government spending bill prohibit the use of funds to implement any action taken by Obama to provide work permits or identification cards to undocumented immigrants.
A new spending bill is needed by Dec. 11 to avoid a shutdown for federal agencies. Democrats, who still control the Senate, would reject such funding restrictions and such a bill would face a veto by Obama.
Republicans last year tried to deny funds to halt the implementation of key provisions of Obama's healthcare reform law, a move that led to a wrenching 16-day government shutdown.
Obama has pledged to take action before the end of the year to remove the threat of deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. Republicans have warned him that such action would poison hopes for bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
Asked if there was a way for Republicans to block Obama on immigration without a government shutdown over funding the government, Boehner said: “We’ll find out.”
Some Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing for only a short-term extension of government funding as a means to keep some leverage over Obama next year.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers argued in favor of a full-year spending bill, saying that the only purpose of a short-term extension was to threaten a shutdown, an "unrealistic" strategy.
"I hope we learned our lesson on the shutdown. We're not going to have a shutdown," Rogers said.
(Reporting by David Lawder and Amanda Becker; Editing by Dan Grebler)