As Senate Republicans shift towards passage of a Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill that includes full funding of the Obama administration’s unilateral plan to legalize five million people in the nation illegally, one the most vocal opponents of the plan says GOP leaders are not only giving Obama exactly what he wants but sending a dangerous message to the rest of the world.
In January, the House approved full funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the end of the fiscal year in September. It did not include funding for the recently announced Obama immigration policy or his unilateral move in 2012 to grant legal status to so-called “dreamers,” illegal immigrants who were brought to this country at a very young age.
Senate Republicans tried to move the House bill but failed to get a single Democratic senator to join them. As a result, the GOP failed four times to reach the 60-vote threshold to debate or pass the bill. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he was scrapping that strategy and would instead pass a “clean” DHS appropriations bill that included money for Obama’s immigration programs. In addition, the Senate will vote on a separate bill to defund the actions announced by Obama in November. That bill is also unlikely to receive 60 votes.
“The more I look at it and the more I hear about it, I just can’t support it,” said Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida.
Yoho was the sponsor of a House bill in December that declared the Obama administration’s action illegal. That fight also propelled Yoho to challenge House Speaker John Boehner when the 114th Congress convened in January. He says this move makes no logistical sense.
“The leverage that we had was we funded DHS like we’re supposed to, like we’ve been sent up here to do the people’s business. It went through authorization. It went through appropriations. We funded it at 100 percent. We put blockage in there of any activity by the president to exercise or go forward with his illegal, unconstitutional amnesty that he did on November 20th,” said Yoho, who sees McConnell’s strategy as surrendering the high ground.
“To separate those takes that leverage away and I think it’s a huge mistake. We’ve got the law on our side and for the Senate to not stand up and do what’s right, I just think it’s wrong. I think there’s some other options that they could have done. I know we’re not serving the American people properly by doing that,” he said.
The Senate is already moving forward on the clean funding bill. It cleared it’s first procedural hurdle by a vote of 98-2. Only Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, and Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, voted against opening debate, suggesting the votes for passage are there in the Senate. The House vote would be less certain. Yoho says there are a lot of members who share his frustration.
“I know there’s a lot of consternation over here. There’s people that have the same concern I do. There’s no leverage to make what the president’s doing illegal. I know we have that judge’s order, but if they get that rescinded then the president will go on and give green cards to five million people here,” said Yoho.
But the congressman says that’s not even the worst result of Congress giving Obama what he wants.
“What’s worse is by America’s policies, he’s created around the globe that America has a global policy of unenforcement on immigration. You can come here any way you want to come here and we’re gonna get you a work permit so that you’re here legally. They’ll start competing with American citizens for jobs and they’re here illegally,” said Yoho.
“Without securing the border and enforcing the laws on the books. This is a terrible way to go forward. It’s reckless for this president to do it,” he said.
With the deadline for funding DHS approaching fast and Senate Republicans clearly unable to find the votes for passage, Yoho says there is another approach Republicans could take besides passing a clean bill.
“If they pushed anything, if they’re going to do this, I don’t like this option but I’d like to see them push blocking the president’s executive order from November 20th. Pass that first and have the president sign that and then and then do DHS funding,” he said.
Just as with previous funding showdowns, Republican leaders say their hands are effectively tied at this point. Even though they say Senate Democrats are the ones holding up funding for DHS, Democrats and the media will likely brand Republicans as obstructionists and the public is likely to believe them. Yoho is ready to call their bluff.
“If we get blamed for that like we did last time and we win the largest majority in 90 years, I’ll take that kind of blame. The American people are smart enough to figure out who really did what,” said Yoho.
He says the argument to make for holding their ground would be an easy one.
“We stood on the side of the law. We stood on the side of doing what’s correct for our country and standing with the Constitution. I don’t see how anybody can fault us. I think [voters] spoke loud and clear in November and I think the president and his party are going to have a price to pay if they keep trying to push rules and keep trying to change laws by fiat. You’re going to see the American people wake up,” said Yoho.
If the McConnell approach carries the day and Congress fully funds the president’s immigration programs, has Obama effectively won this debate unless the courts strike them down?
“No, I don’t think he’s won this fight. There’s other things we can do and all I can tell you is stay tuned and see what we can do to prevent them. This is not the way to fix immigration. If the president truly wants to fix immigration, we’ve been on the news saying I’d be happy to sit down with him. We’ve got a four-step process that could fix this if they would come to the table,” said Yoho.