President Obama’s announcement tonight may bring a “constitutional crisis,” in the words of Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), but Republicans in Congress haven’t the damndest idea what they’ll do about it.
As they departed the House floor, many en route to the airport for a Thanksgiving recess, many GOP lawmakers seemed as interested in explaining why options floated by colleagues from their own party wouldn’t work as denouncing what they describe as an unprecedented power grab by a president they just decimated at the ballot box.
“That’s the hundred million dollar question,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH), “How do you stop an inaction? That’s the tough question that I don’t have the answer to today….Just to go a step further: ‘shut the government down.’ That doesn’t stop this inaction. Don’t fund immigration service. That doesn’t stop this inaction. How do you stop this inaction?”
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers attempted to throw cold water on the idea of using spending bills to prohibit funding for employment documents for illegal aliens, saying that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is funded by fees it collects, inuring itself from a shutdown.
“To alter or change the fee matter, it would take a change of law – an authorization – to change the immigration act that setup the fee structure. It would take an act of Congress,” Rogers told reporters.
Censuring Obama, a non-binding step short of impeachment suggested by top immigration hawk Rep. Steve King (R-IA), is finding quick opposition among more senior members.
“That doesn’t stop the action of the executive order. That’s what we have to be smart about this. I think he wants us to do that. In a really weird way, I think he wants us to be fighting him on a personal level and not focused on the issues, because he got beat on the issues in the November election. If we make this about him – which I think he wants us to, that’s why he’s doing this – it’s a huge distraction on all the policy issues, [like] repealing pieces of Obamacare,” Tiberi said.
One avenue thought to hold promise even by more establishment-type Republicans is legal action, although it could take years to see resolution.
“Ultimately this fight might end up at the Supreme Court,” Tiberi said.
Conservatives have floated a number of plans, beginning with targeting the administration’s ability to use funds to legalize aliens.
They’ve also discussed resolutions of disapproval, censure – an unnamed lawmaker was collecting cosponsors for a yet-to-be-released censure resolution, a colleague said – and even impeachment.
“We need to be evaluating how many of our available weapons we want to use. It’s my belief that we should use every single one in our arsenal. We should challenge the president in court, to the extent his executive order violates any constitutional or federal statutory provisions. We should encourage state and other governments to join in that effort to force the president to obey the law. We should look at our funding mechanisms and pass whatever legislation is necessary and advisable to force the president to obey the law. We should censure the president. If the president’s conduct rises to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, which is a very high level, then we should consider impeachment,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL).
Sophomore Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) introduced a bill Thursday that attempts to rescind any discretion by the executive branch as it relates to exempting categories of illegal aliens from prosecution and deportation.
“It’s in contrast to the appropriations fix, which is only a short-term fix with an expiration date. This fixes it so that any president from here on out cannot wield his pen, or his phone, to make these changes,” Yoho said.
The many disparate ideas leave Republicans without any clear course of action after the president moves forward. And neither will most of them be present in Washington since Congress has recessed.
Many lawmakers have gone home, others to fundraising events, like several near Boca Raton, FL, where the Republican Governors Association convened a meeting this week. This afternoon, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is participating in a panel discussion and reception at the Hoover Institute with former Bush Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice.
The lack of a concrete plan may leave Republicans scrambling to respond after the president acts, some lawmakers fear.
“What I’ve seen in my two years here is, everything is crisis management because we don’t get out in front of it. We’re in a football game and we’re worried about the next down. We don’t know where the goalpost is,” said Yoho.