WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the House of Representatives are pursuing a strategy to choke off funding for President Barack Obama’s recent immigration order that could force a shutdown for parts of the Department of Homeland Security.
Republican lawmakers and aides said on Wednesday that a funding measure for DHS, which secures U.S. borders, airports, coastal waters and other critical facilities, as well as controlling the agencies that are to implement Obama’s immigration order, could be introduced by Friday and ready for a vote next week.
The sprawling agency was not included in a $1.1 trillion spending bill passed in December so that Republicans could retain leverage to fight Obama’s plan to lift the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.
With Republicans now in control of both the House and Senate, they stand a much greater chance of passing a measure aimed at stopping the immigration order.
House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said Republicans would likely include language to specifically forbid DHS from spending any money to implement the immigration order, whether appropriated by Congress or collected from fees. So activities like the vetting of undocumented immigrants would be cut off, he told reporters.
Sessions said that Obama would be expected to veto the DHS bill, putting the president in the position of allowing the agency’s spending authority to expire on Feb. 27.
“We think that’s wrong,” Sessions said of a possible veto.
Two days into the new Republican-controlled Congress, the White House has taken a combative stance by issuing two veto threats - one a bill to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline and another on a plan to weaken the Obamacare health reform law.
The DHS measure’s language is still under discussion but is tricky because the agency responsible for putting the order into motion, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is supported mostly by fee revenue.
In addition, the agency’s critical functions, such as transportation security and border patrols, do not shut down when spending authority lapses, potentially limiting pain associated with an Obama veto.
During a 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, about 85 percent of the agency’s 231,117 employees remained on the job, deemed exempt because they were directly involved in protecting lives and property, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.
The Republican plan to fight the immigration order could also be married with some border security enhancements, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said on Monday night. “We’re discussing all avenues,” he added.
Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Caren Bohan and Leslie Adler