As we all welcome in 2015, we are also welcoming in the new Republican led Congress, who was sworn in on Tuesday. And apparently one of their most important priorities for this nation is what they decided to tackle first. The Republicans’ first urgent piece of business is to stop President Obama’s executive order on immigration. Before the last session of Congress ended, Republicans believed that the best way to stop Obama’s “Amnesty plan” was to only pass short term funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Naturally they did this because they knew that such a plan would never pass the previously Democratic led Senate, so they decided to hold off and wait for the new Republican Congress.
There are many logistical problems with this hare-brained idea, but Wednesday morning the whole plan also became a disastrous optics fiasco. The terrorist attack in Paris has really left Republicans scrambling. Some are still adamantly supporting the idea, while others are just running for cover or desperately trying to find a way to blame the entire thing on Obama. But there is no denying that their big plan of defunding Homeland Security in the wake of a major terror attack will not sit well with most Americans. And yet, even with some Republicans jumping ship and despite their obvious optics problem, they are still pushing for this impossible idea.
On Tuesday, GOP Rep. Martha Roby from Alabama introduced a new bill called the “Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015.” Basically the new bill would stop President Obama from spending any money for any particular purpose through the use of executive action. The goal of this bill is to cut off all money that would go to Obama’s immigration plan while at the same time providing funding for only part of Homeland Security. And they are trying to do this by adding a “none of the funds” clause to the pending appropriation for the Department.
But unfortunately for the Republicans, this strange plan has virtually ZERO chance of working. First of all, without even considering any of the problems with the bill itself, it would still have to pass in the Senate. And even though the Republicans now have the majority in the upper chamber, if this new bill ever made it to the Senate floor, it would surely face a point of order which would require it to get 60 votes to pass. To make it even more impossible for this to ever work out for the Repubs, regardless of whether or not they could pass it through both houses of Congress, President Obama still has the power of the Veto, which he would obviously use here. And it’s pretty much a given that Congress would be unable to get the two-thirds majority required to override a Veto.
If all of that didn’t make this whole Republican scheme an exercise in futility, there is an even bigger problem with their plan. The House Appropriations Committee actually told the Repubs in November that it would be absolutely “impossible” to defund Obama’s executive order on immigration by using a government spending bill. They simply cannot cut off the money needed for Obama’s plan because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), which is the primary agency responsible for implementing the President’s executive order, is actually totally funded by user fees.
That means that no matter what sort of defunding bill that the GOP tries to pass, the CIS would still continue to collect money and carry out their business at hand. As a matter of fact, even if the Republicans decided to force another government shutdown over this issue, the CIS would be completely unaffected.
The House Appropriations Committee Chairman, Hal Rogers from Kentucky, has actually already pointed this fact out to his colleagues in a statement he released in November. He said,
“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 defund the agency.”
A spokesman for the Committee hammered the point even further when she explained,
“We cannot, literally cannot, defund that agency in an appropriations bill because we don’t appropriate that agency. That agency is entirely fee-funded. As of right now, our understanding is the primary agency responsible for implementing any type of executive order is CIS and we don’t fund CIS. There are no appropriated dollars.”
And yet, for some inexplicable reason, the Republicans don’t seem to understand these facts or maybe they simply don’t believe them. All I can guess is that this new group of Conservatives has decided to take over exactly where the old group left off by pandering to their neo-Con base through the use of pointless symbolic gestures.