New York Times
By Ashley Parker
December 2, 2014
House Republicans made progress on Tuesday steering some of their most conservative members away from a course that could shut down the government next week, a prospect that would badly damage the party as it prepares to take control of Congress in January.
Though the outcome remained unpredictable, Speaker John A. Boehner and his deputies were already counting votes for a two-part plan that they presented in a closed-door meeting in the Capitol.
The first step would be to allow a largely symbolic vote on legislation to dismantle President Obama’s executive action last month that delayed the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. The second would be to fund the government through the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015, except for agencies that spend money to enforce Mr. Obama’s immigration action, like the Department of Homeland Security.
Congress would then revisit funding for those agencies early next year when Republicans are in control of both the House and the Senate and in a stronger position.
Republicans are eager to pass a broad spending bill this year to avoid the crisis atmosphere that spending fights would create, notably in financial markets. But they also want to show their facility for governing, hoping for a triumphant return in January.
As they left their meeting in the Capitol basement on Tuesday, some Republicans said there was a growing recognition that the party must build greater trust with Americans, and that bringing the country to the brink of another government shutdown would squander the support voters gave them at the polls last month.
“We’re three weeks away from having a majority in both houses; we’re going to have the largest Republican majority in the House in 90 years,” said Representative Dennis A. Ross, Republican of Florida. “I think that we have to use this constructively.”
House Republicans, however, are likely to lose enough conservative members that they will need at least some Democratic votes to pass their spending bill. Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, has yet to decide whether to free her members to support it.
Drew Hammill, communications director for Ms. Pelosi, said, “We’re not inclined to support anything that diminishes the president’s legal authority to act on immigration.”
The resolution to undo the president’s action, however, would largely be a way for House Republicans to vent their displeasure, and could come as early as Thursday. Representative Ted Yoho of Florida, who came up with the plan, acknowledged that his measure would be a “symbolic message” if Senate Democrats did not take up his resolution — something Senator Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada and the majority leader, has said he is not going to do.
“The simplest way this would work is, it will bring a stop to the action that the president wants,” Mr. Yoho said. “He talks about how he has a pen and a phone. This will take the ink out of the pen.”
The demographics of America’s undocumented immigrants, more than half of whom have been in the United States for more than 10 years and nearly a third of whom own homes.
Then, House Republicans would vote next week on legislation to fund almost all of the government through September 2015, but use a short-term measure known as a continuing resolution to fund the Department of Homeland Security, the agency primarily responsible for overseeing the administration’s immigration policy, only into March. Representative Tom Price, Republican of Georgia, first raised the possibility of the spending plan before the Thanksgiving break.
Both Mr. Price and Mr. Yoho come with strong conservative credentials, and the Republican leadership’s decision to include them in the strategy helped earn the trust and support of some of the conference’s more resistant members.
A complicating factor, however, is that the primary agency responsible for carrying out the president’s executive action, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, is financed entirely through fees collected from immigration applications and therefore cannot be defunded in the appropriations process.
Republicans seemed to acknowledge that there was little they could do to stop the president. Speaking after the meeting, Mr. Boehner said his conference seemed to realize that options were limited until next month.
“I think they understand that it’s going to be difficult to take meaningful action as long as we have Democratic control in the Senate,” he said.
Mr. Boehner told his members as much in private on Tuesday. “He just asked that everybody act responsibly,” said Representative John L. Mica of Florida.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, Republican of Illinois, said that short of going to court — still an option that Republicans are considering — there was not much they could do.
“We are not going to shut down the government again,” he said. “There is no doubt we are in a box, in a tough position here.”
The must-pass spending legislation is the first major test for the speaker and his new leadership team, who despite increasing their majority in the House on Election Day still need to show that they can break the gridlock that has defined Washington for the past few years — and, more important, keep their most conservative members in check.
Some conservatives, however, are likely to vote against the spending bill because they believe it does not go far enough. They say they would prefer a measure to fund the entire government on a short-term basis so that they can pass a spending plan early next year shaped by Republican majorities.
The speaker and his allies have been working to ensure that their spending plan can pass, and he seemed to gain an unlikely ally Tuesday in Mr. Reid, who called Mr. Boehner’s plan a “big accomplishment” that Senate Democrats might support.
“The American people certainly will not want to face another year being governed by crisis,” Mr. Reid said. “No one wants the kind of cliffhanger fights we’ve had again and again in recent years.”
Many of the more conservative House members have been pushing for an aggressive response to the president, like a censure vote or cutting off funding for the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans for the most part on Tuesday said that would not happen.
But there were still many conservative Republicans who were openly dismissive of the leadership’s package. “I would vote no because I don’t think you fund any unconstitutional action, even if it’s over a short period of time,” said Representative Joe L. Barton, Republican of Texas.
On Tuesday, two different House committees held hearings on Mr. Obama’s executive action, and the strong criticism from some Republicans highlighted Mr. Boehner’s challenge.
Testifying before the House Homeland Security Committee, Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary, defended the president’s sweeping directive as “common sense.”
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