WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. House Republican on Tuesday floated a plan to avoid a government shutdown fight in December while also setting a path for undoing sweeping immigration changes President Barack Obama is expected to execute.
Under a strategy suggested by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, Congress next month would pass a bill funding the U.S. government through September, the end of the current fiscal year. That would avoid closure of the government in an ongoing battle with President Barack Obama over immigration policy.
But once Obama issues his expected order on immigration policy, Congress could pass a separate bill known as a “recisions” bill cutting funding for those actions.
Obama is expected to announce steps by year’s end to allow possibly as many as five million undocumented residents remain in the United States without fear of deportation. The move likely would allow them to work legally, at least temporarily.
Republicans, who will control the Senate as well as the House of Representatives in the new Congress that begins in January, are weighing how to respond. Many oppose what they say would amount to an “amnesty” by the president for undocumented immigrants.
House Speaker John Boehner, asked by reporters if the recisions approach had merit, said “maybe.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he would support whatever approach the Republican-controlled House approved. He added that arguments over funding between Republicans and the White House would continue for months.
McConnell vowed just after the Nov. 4 election that there would be no more government shutdowns under a Republican-controlled Congress. But on Tuesday he said it was “not unusual” for Congress to use its spending powers to demand policy changes, adding that the two sides will have to work through their differences.
“It’s always appropriate to use power of the purse, but it’s important to remember that the president has an important trump card; it’s called the veto,” McConnell said. “So there will be ongoing negotiations in the various efforts to fund the government, both this year and next year, about priorities,” he said.
Advocates of Rogers’ approach said it would be better than a short-term funding measure, or trying to deny funds pre-emptively to any move Obama makes. Congress needs to act to fund the government by Dec. 11, when existing money runs out.
Reporting by Susan Cornwell and David Lawder; Editing by Dan Grebler