Republicans to keep up immigration fight after court ruling

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 19, 2015 5:57 PM

By David Lawder and Susan Cornwell

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservatives in the U.S. Congress, emboldened by a federal judge's action, say they will renew their assault on President Barack Obama's immigration orders next week, even if it heightens the risk of a partial Department of Homeland Security shutdown on Feb. 27.

A temporary court order on Monday blocking Obama's executive actions lifting the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants has bolstered conservative support for a House of Representatives-passed Homeland Security spending bill that bans spending on Obama's actions.

The court ruling "gives momentum to our position," said Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican who heads a group of about 35 staunch conservatives known as the House Freedom Caucus.

During a conference call on Wednesday, members of the group vowed not to waver from their demands that Senate Democrats, who have blocked the House bill three times, drop their objections and pass it.

Obama has promised to veto any funding bill that blocks his executive orders, and Democrats have shown no signs of changing their position.

"The conservative Republicans won this round. So why are people now looking at us to change the bill that we passed?" said Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, adding that was the "overwhelming consensus" expressed on the call.

The administration has promised to appeal the injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city on the Texas-Mexico border.

A senior Republican aide said conservatives would need more assurance that Hanen's decision would withstand an appeal before they could consider a "clean" Homeland Security funding bill. But the appeal could give Republicans a reason to back a one-month extension of current department funding levels in order to see how the case plays out in court, the aide said.

"The default position of the House will be a continuing resolution" to provide short-term funding for the department, said moderate Republican Representative Charlie Dent. That was better than cutting off funds, he said, but "not as good" as a clean funding bill.

House Speaker John Boehner said he hoped the ruling would convince Senate Democrats to allow the House bill to proceed. Republican House members will discuss their next move when they return from a holiday break next week, leadership aides said.

If Homeland Security funding expires at midnight on Feb. 27, some 30,000 employees would be furloughed, but many of the department's critical protective missions would continue uninterrupted, including airport and border security and Coast Guard patrols. Employees performing these functions would not be paid until funding is restored, however.

That would prompt a flurry of finger-pointing in Congress as Democrats and Republicans try to pin the blame on each other.

A CNN/ORC poll taken last week found 53 percent of Americans would blame congressional Republicans for any Homeland Security shutdowns, while only 30 percent would blame Obama. That is in line with historical patterns for previous federal agency shutdowns, which have been blamed by the public on Republicans.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by John Whitesides and Lisa Shumaker)