House Republicans split on how to thwart Obama on immigration

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 14, 2014 6:09 PM

By David Lawder and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives struggled on Friday to reach a consensus on how to stop President Barack Obama from easing U.S. immigration policies, as moderates in the party resisted efforts to use government funding as leverage.

Several Republicans, including some in leadership, said they were trying to find alternatives that would stop short of directly threatening a government shutdown.

The party wants to avoid a repeat of last year's wrenching 16-day shutdown of federal agencies, which was sparked by a move to deny funding to health insurance reforms.

A vocal group of conservatives is pressing to ban funds needed to implement any move that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the United States.

"There’s a wide diversity of thought as to how effective that would be," said Representative Bill Flores of Texas, adding a shutdown "is not a good solution."

The debate was an early challenge for Republican congressional leaders and showed that deep party divisions remain after last week's sweeping midterm election victories. The party will control of the U.S. Senate and have an expanded majority in the House of Representatives in January.

Republicans pondered a range of options to counter Obama, from legal challenges to targeted funding cuts and non-budget legislative approaches, said Representative Lynn Jenkins, the deputy head of the House Republican Conference.

"I think at the end of the day what you will see is some of all of the above," Jenkins said.

Some conservatives are pushing for a full-year spending bill for most agencies, but a shorter-term extension for agencies directly involved in implementing Obama's plan so lawmakers could block immigration funds without shutting down the government.

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"The power of the purse is what's given to the House. That’s the check that we have against the White House," said Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. "To the extent that that's the lever we have, that's the lever we'll use."

Many of the legislative options under consideration would face opposition in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats until January, and draw a veto from the White House.

Some Republicans, including conservatives Raul Labrador and Marlin Stutzman, suggested the House deter Obama by passing some immigration reform bills, starting with enhanced border security measures.

(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson)