* Battle could have impact on November elections
* Political risks for Republicans and Democrats
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Aug 27 Conservatives in the U.S.
Congress who object to President Barack Obama's immigration
policies are threatening to tie a must-pass budget bill to the
issue, making for a possible showdown in September and raising
the specter of a government shutdown.
When lawmakers return from their summer recess on Sept. 8,
they hope to sprint to another long break beginning around Sept.
19. That gives them little time to agree on temporarily funding
federal agencies on Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year.
One year ago, Congress faced a similar task. But Republican
leaders' plans for smooth passage of legislation disintegrated
when Tea Party-backed lawmakers led by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas
insisted on using the spending bill to gut Obama's landmark
healthcare program known as Obamacare.
Federal agencies were shut down for 16 days because of a
lack of funds, before a bruised Republican Party relented.
Now, with partisanship running high ahead of November's
congressional elections, infighting over the spending bill -
known as the continuing resolution, or CR - could become even
In part, that is because Congress left for recess unable to
cut a deal on Obama's request for emergency funds, which he said
were needed to deal with an influx of Central American children
illegally entering the country.
If Obama renews his request, which most Republicans oppose,
it could spark a battle over the bigger bill to keep the
That would be nothing compared to the fight Obama could
touch off in September if he announces unilateral actions giving
temporary legal status and work permits to millions of
Such a move could prompt some Republicans to retaliate by
holding up the government-funding bill unless it prohibits Obama
from carrying out immigration policy changes - a step Senate
Democrats likely would oppose.
Obama has said he will use his executive powers at the end
of summer because Republicans have blocked changes to an
antiquated, unworkable U.S. immigration law.
According to one Senate Republican aide, "The focus is on
doing everything ... to force Senate consideration" of a bill
passed by the Republican-controlled House on Aug. 1.
That measure would reverse Obama's 2012 policy giving
temporary legal status to some undocumented residents who were
brought to the United States as children years ago by their
parents. It would also stop Obama from expanding the policy,
possibly to parents of those children.
"An area of focus is the CR," said the aide, who added that
several senators are ready to join the effort.
But with Republicans on the verge of a November election win
that could see them expand their majority in the House and
capture the Senate, the last thing party leaders and many
rank-and-file members want is to raise the possibility of a
government shutdown - something voters do not tolerate.
At the same time, Democrats, according to congressional
aides, will have to calculate whether they could be damaged in
November by a September fight over immigration.
If either side blinks, there could be swift passage of a
bare-bones temporary spending bill, delaying the showdown until
after the elections.
Besides Cruz, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama has been an
outspoken opponent of steps giving special consideration to any
of the 12 million or so undocumented people living in the United
States. Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Representative Steve King
of Iowa are among other lawmakers who have taken a high-profile
stance against immigration legislation.
In an interview this week with the conservative news and
opinion website Breitbart, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of
Florida backed using budget bills to roll back Obama's
"There will have to be some sort of a budget vote or a
continuing resolution vote, so I assume there will be some sort
of a vote on this (immigration)," he said.
It's an effort that could have the backing of the
conservative group Heritage Action for America, where spokesman
Dan Holler mulled the possibility of linking the urgently needed
funding bill with language to stop Obama's executive actions on
The immigration policy controversy, he said, is having "a
freezing effect on what September looks like" in Washington.
(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Caren Bohan
and Douglas Royalty)