Ed. Note: Immigration policy coming out of the Republican Congress ought to follow the rule of law, preserve our sovereignty, and empower the American worker to pursue the American Dream. We should be imagining our grandchildren's America as we move to address the future and return common sense to our common borders. Republished from the Washington Examiner, by Byron York, January 11, 2015 .
The first option is to pass a brief, simple bill that denies funding for the implementation of Obama’s action, as announced last Nov. 20 and as outlined in memoranda from both the Department of Homeland Security and the White House. Such a move would be direct, unambiguous, and would focus specifically on Obama’s action, which is what the controversy is about in the first place.
The second option is to begin with a defunding measure but then add other provisions, targeting not just Obama’s executive action but also a large chunk of the president’s immigration policy going back five years.
The first, simpler, option probably has the greatest likelihood of success. The second is more complex, and each additional component is likely to give some lawmaker — a few moderate Republicans or the Democrats whose votes are needed for passage in the Senate — a reason to vote against the measure.
While nothing is set in stone, it appears the GOP leadership seems to be headed toward the second option. In answering the president’s overreach on immigration, Capitol Hill Republicans are engaging in some overreach of their own.
The House Rules Committee has published a list of five amendments to be considered on the immigration question. The key amendment is from Reps. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, and Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. It’s also the most ambitious and most likely to scare off lawmakers wary of going beyond reversing Obama’s action of last November.
The Aderholt amendment begins by banning the expenditure of any money for the implementation of “any of the policy changes set forth” in the so-called Morton Memos, referring to a set of memoranda issued by former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief John Morton. The amendment specifically bans funds for the implementation of policies in four such memos, dated March 2, 2011; June 17, 2011; Nov. 17, 2011; and Dec. 21, 2012. Together, the memos undermined the enforcement of several key immigration laws, basically making it much harder for federal officials to deport immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
After undoing the Morton Memos, the amendment would attack Obama’s recent unilateral action. Specifically, it would bar funding for the implementation of any policies set forth in a series of eleven memos released on Nov. 20 and 21 of last year, when the president announced his action.
The bottom line is that instead of simply negating Obama’s November 2014 action on immigration, the GOP would instead attempt to overturn the administration’s policies going back to early 2011.
One big issue left out of the Aderholt amendment is DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that constitutes one of Obama’s most far-reaching unilateral rewrites of immigration law. Republicans decided to attack DACA in a separate amendment, this one by Rep. Marsha Blackburn. Her measure would deny funding “to consider or adjudicate any new, renewal, or previously denied application for any alien requesting consideration of deferred action for childhood arrivals.” Since those currently affected by DACA are required to renew their status every two years, that would be the end of DACA.
Why do a separate amendment for DACA? Why not just include it in the Aderholt amendment? The reason is there are a few Republicans who are not inclined to overturn DACA. Making separate amendments would allow them to vote for Aderholt and against Blackburn, thus still voting to overturn the president’s recent executive action.
Yet another Republican amendment is by Reps. Ron DeSantis and Martha Roby. It would very specifically target the administration’s priority structure for removing criminal immigrants. Currently some domestic violence and sex offenders are not in the highest-priority removal category. The DeSantis-Roby measure would put them there.
Finally, there are two other amendments, one by Rep. Matt Salmon and the other by Rep. Aaron Schock, that are so-called “sense of Congress” amendments, meaning they are not binding and don’t really mean anything. The Salmon measure says government policy should not favor illegal immigrants over people in the United States legally — that it is the sense of Congress that “the executive branch should refrain from pursuing policies, such as granting deferred action and work authorization to unlawfully present individuals, that disadvantage the hiring of United States citizens and those in lawful immigration status in the United States.”
The Schock amendment says the government should not favor those in the country illegally over those patiently waiting their turn to come to the U.S. legally — that it is the sense of Congress that federal officials should “stop putting the interests of aliens who are unlawfully present in the United States ahead of the interests of aliens who are following proper immigration laws and procedures by adjudicating petitions and applications for immigration benefits submitted by aliens unlawfully present in the United States.”
So that is the lineup. The only way for a lawmaker to vote to undo Obama’s executive action from last November is to vote for the Aderholt measure — but that would also mean voting to rescind the Morton Memos and administration policy over the last several years. It is not hard to imagine a Democrat saying, “I’m troubled by what the president did in November, but I’m not comfortable voting to overturn his entire policy.” The bottom line is that by broadening the effort to overrule Obama in the Aderholt amendment, Republicans are likely making sure that fewer lawmakers will vote for it, especially in the Senate.
By the way, Republicans did have a clean, simple amendment that would have reversed only Obama’s November action. It was filed by Roby on Tuesday with the title “Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015.” But by the time the leadership got through with things, the original Roby bill was nowhere to be seen.
There is some dark talk in the Capitol that it’s all intentional, that the House leadership is sabotaging its own amendments, structuring them to make them unpassable in the Senate, because it really doesn’t want to overturn the president’s action. “It’s sending a bill to the Senate that is designed not to pass the Senate,” says one GOP congressional aide, “because members who are on the fence, whose votes we could have gotten, are going to know they have a pretext to vote no.” At the least, such talk is a measure of the distrust of leadership that prevails in some House and Senate circles.
Of course something will pass. Lots of lawmakers will vote for the DeSantis amendment and prioritize enforcement against illegal immigrants who are domestic violence offenders or sexual predators. Why oppose that? And why not vote to say you believe the U.S. should favor American citizens over illegal immigrants? Those are easy votes that don’t mean much. But on the main issue — overturning Obama’s executive action of last November — Republicans have made success less, not more, likely by including other provisions.
Actually rescinding Obama’s action was always going to be almost impossible to do. Republicans would be enormously fortunate to win 60 votes to defeat a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and send a rescind bill to the president’s desk. But if Obama vetoes it, as he certainly will, Republicans don’t have the 290 votes in the House and 67 in the Senate needed to override.
So ultimate victory isn’t really in the cards. But many Republicans strongly believe they have to try — and if they succeed, they will force the president to veto a bill passed by a supermajority of Congress. That’s not a politically happy thing to do. Now, though, it may never come to that, not because of anything Obama did but because Republicans have undermined their own chances to succeed.
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