GOP House Passes Bill Setting Up New Shutdown War Over Immigration

Kris Tripplaar/Sipa USA

Updated: 1:10 PM EST

Government shutdown wars are back with a vengeance.

House Republicans teed up a new standoff on Wednesday with passage of legislation that overturns President Barack Obama’s executive actions on deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The bill passed 236-191, with 10 Republicans voting against it and 2 Democrats supporting it.

The legislation is tied to the funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which expires on Feb. 28. The department will partially shut down if a bill isn’t enacted by then. The rest of the government is funded through September.

“We do not take this action lightly but, simply, there is no alternative,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a fiery floor speech. “This executive overreach is an affront to the rule of law and the Constitution itself. What we’re dealing with is a president who has ignored the people and ignored the Constitution, including his own past statements.”

The legislation is an aggressive opening bid from the House. It’s unlikely to pass the Senate, where Democrats appear to have the votes to filibuster. It also faces a veto threat from the White House. House GOP leadership aides privately acknowledge that their bill may not go any further in its current form.

Adding to the precariousness of the GOP position, cutting off funding for DHS is likely to have the most adverse impact on border security and deportations, which Republicans favor, and minimal impact on the elements of DHS’ work that Obama’s executive action covers, which are funded through fees.

“If somebody were writing a play about this and they wanted to put a perverse circumstance in it that gave the president this smirk authority over the Congress, this is what we’ve done,” Rep. Steve King (R-IA), a leading for of immigration reform, told TPM recently.

The passage of the House bill puts Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in a difficult position — the first big test for the new Senate majority leader.

Some Republican senators are uneasy with how far the bill goes — it rolls back Obama’s recently announced immigration actions to shield more than 4 million people, as well as his popular 2012 program to protect young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. Many Senate Republicans have little appetite for a divisive battle on immigration.

“Members are discussing [what to do],” a Senate GOP leadership aide said after the House vote.

Queried by TPM on Tuesday, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Richard Burr (R-NC) declined to take a position on the House package. Both face reelection in 2016.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called on Republicans to “stop playing games and pass a clean bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security because the pointless, political bill passed in the House today will not pass the Senate.”

“House Republicans voted to tear families apart and deport young people who came to this country as babies,” he said.

In an unusual move, a faction of relative moderate House Republicans mounted a mini-rebellion against what one of them, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA), described as conservative overreach. But the revolt failed as the contentious amendment by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) to sunset the 2012 Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program passed with 26 Republicans opposed.

“Look, I think our party needs to start offering solutions,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who voted against the anti-DACA amendment but in favor of final passage of the bill, told TPM. “But now I think, you know, once you have kids that are basically registered, now the government has their name and address, got them to come forward — and then to turn around and say it’s not going to be renewed. … I just think it’s the wrong message to send for our party.”

Denham voted against the final bill. “I don’t believe this is the right place to have the immigration debate,” he said, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We are overreaching into an area that goes above and beyond what we’re trying to accomplish with the Homeland Security bill.”

Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) declared the GOP’s immigration provisions “garbage” and fumed that they didn’t belong in the DHS funding legislation.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a frequent thorn in the side of Republican leaders, supported the bill but was fatalistic about the next steps.

“I think it’s a strategy that doesn’t have a great probability of success,” he told TPM, “which is why I opposed going down this route in December and November. Because they [Republican leaders] can’t tell you today how this achieves the desired goal of fighting tooth and nail to fight the president’s executive amnesty. I’m not sure how it works.”

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