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Yes, Congress Can Control USCIS Spending

Yes, Congress Can Control USCIS Spending

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House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers says President Obama’s forthcoming executive amnesty is beyond the reach of his committee, something that has been reported to mean that Congress has no means of preventing it at all.

But Rogers and 25 members of his spending panel all voted for a bill to do just that in August, and experts say that Congress’ ability to determine how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spends the fees it collects is not in question.

The Appropriations Committee said in a statement to Thursday:

The primary agency for implementing the President’s new immigration executive order is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications. Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the Appropriations process cannot be used to ‘de-fund’ the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new Executive Order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.

Roger and others note that because the agency doesn’t collect funds from taxes, but instead from fees from various immigration applications, allowing funding to lapse on the agency, like in a government shutdown, wouldn’t prevent it from continuing to operate.

“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 today.

That’s a far cry from Congress not being able to target the use of funds at all, an interpretation that the appropriations committee seems to have encouraged with the broad wording of its statement.

In fact, Rogers himself–and 25 members of his committee–voted Aug. 1 to restrict how USCIS spends its money, even though it is funded from fees.

“Lawmakers absolutely have the ability to prevent USCIS, or any other agency for that matter, from implementing any new executive actions,” Dan Holler, Heritage Action’s communications director, told Breitbart News. “Earlier this year (Aug 1), 25 of the 28 Republicans on the committee – including the chairman and every cardinal – voted to deny ‘Federal funding or resources’ for an expansion of Obama’s executive amnesty plan. Their past actions suggest language can be attached to any appropriations bill that moves forward.”

“Congress authorizes USCIS to collect and use fees,” Rosemary Jenks, NumbersUSA’s director of Government Relations, added in an email. “Congress can, therefore, forbid USCIS from collecting or using fees.”

Incoming Senate Budget Committee chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) also debunked Rogers’ false statement in a Thursday statement.

“On its face, the suggestion that the White House can implement any unlawful and unconstitutional act so long as it pays for it with assessed fees is just plain wrong,” Sessions said. “The USCIS union president has already warned that the agency lacks the resources to properly screen applicants now–and he stressed just last month that the President’s executive amnesty would make the situation ‘exponentially worse–and more dangerous.'”

Sessions said it’s Congress’s duty, power, and right to block funding for this. He went on:

The American people’s Congress has the power and every right to deny funding for unworthy activities,” It is a routine and constitutional application of congressional power. There is no question that Congress has the power to block this expenditure and no doubt that it can be done. If such language is not included, the measure will be subject to the same 60-vote threshold in the Senate and simple majority in the House. This will require no more votes than passing a funding bill without the needed language. The question is whether or not Democratic Senators will finally stand up to the President.

Rogers spokeswoman Jennifer Hing claimed that Rogers is opposed to Obama’s amnesty and will fight it “tooth and nail.”

“Chairman Rogers is adamantly opposed to the President’s purported executive action on immigration, and wants Congress to fight it tooth and nail through legislative means,” Hing said in the email.

But the Kentucky Republican’s outspoken role in pushing against efforts to stop Obama has raised questions about the relationship Rogers has with his campaign contributor General Dynamics–a defense contractor seeking the contract to print all the documents Obama needs to implement his executive amnesty, things like work permits and ID cards and Social Security cards for illegal aliens.

If General Dynamics gets that contract, which it expects to, a top official with the company told Breitbart News that it expects to print the documents at a government facility in Corbin, Kentucky, inside Rogers’ congressional district. Though Hing acknowledged on Rogers’ behalf the questions about this for the first time–all week she has ignored press requests about it–she refused to answer any questions about that relationship, and whether Rogers or any of his surrogates have had any communications with General Dynamics about this lucrative contract.

“Sorry… can’t speak to that at all,” Chris Jensen, General Dynamics’ top Homeland Security contracting official, told Breitbart News when asked for details about communications he or the company has had with Rogers about this contracting opportunity that will become available if Republicans don’t stop Obama’s executive amnesty.

Despite Rogers and his staff attempting to ignore the General Dynamics story, Tea Partiers in Kentucky are on a manhunt right now to find a primary challenger to him for 2016’s electoral cycle because of it. Some have already compared what Rogers is doing now to what now former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor did by trying to slip amnesty for select illegal aliens into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Cantor, obviously, was defeated by newly-elected Rep. Dave Brat (R-VA) in the Republican primary aftermisleading Republican members, the public, and people in his district about what he was doing on immigration. 

Every Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee is aware that Congress has authority over USCIS spending, because each of them–Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Tom Latham (R-IA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Kay Granger (R-TX), Mike Simpson (R-ID), John Culberson (R-TX), Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), John Carter (R-TX), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Charles Dent (R-PA), Tom Graves (R-GA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Steve Womack (R-AR), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Tom Rooney (R-FL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), David Joyce (R-OH), David Valadao (R-CA), Andy Harris (R-MD), Martha Roby (R-AL), Mark Amodei (R-NV) and Chris Stewart (R-UT)–cast votes one way or the other on Aug. 1 on legislation from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) that would make it illegal to expend government dollars on the implementation of an executive amnesty. That bill specifically blocked funding for the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive amnesty for illegal alien minors, and for any attempts to expand DACA as Obama is set to do Thursday night.

All of those Republicans, and Rogers himself, voted for the Cruz-Blackburn legislation except for Diaz-Balart, Valadao and Amodei. That means 26 Republicans on the committee, including the chairman, voted to do exactly what is now being reported as beyond Congress’ reach.

Rogers previously, in a closed-door conference meeting, told Republican members that they could revoke the funding for Obama’s amnesty after funding it right off the bat through a process called “rescissions.” Essentially, what “rescissions” are is that the Republicans would fund the efforts now–and then pull the money back after the new Senate GOP majority takes hold.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report on the appropriations process details how Rogers’ plan wouldn’t work because just like how President Obama can veto a government funding bill, he can also veto an effort to engage in rescissions. “As budget authority providing the funding must be enacted into law, so too a rescission cancelling the budget authority must be enacted into law,” CRS wrote in the report. The CRS report specifically details how Obama can veto any rescissions effort–just like any other appropriations effort–and therefore continue forward with executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens that would be funded under the omnibus bill that Rogers wants to push through Congress now.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) specifically said that Rogers told him, however, that to rescind the funding there is no need to get past a presidential veto. 

“Chairman Rogers just got up and said if we pass an omnibus and then the president does this executive amnesty, he said we can rescind it, and we can rescind it with 218 and 51 and we don’t need the president. That’s what he just told me. I’ve never heard that before,” Salmon said earlier this week.

A Rogers aide later disputed that account, saying Rogers had never claimed Obama wouldn’t need to sign the bill. 

Rogers’ lies are fueling Democrats’ efforts to attack Republican strategies–or lack thereof–here. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top communications staffer, Adam Jentleson, Tweeted out the Huffington Post story on Thursday in an effort to undermine GOP efforts to stop Obama.


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