Amid growing concerns about the threat of home-grown terror after last week’s carnage in Paris, House Republicans are preparing to play a game of chicken with the Obama administration over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the nation’s overseer of national security.
Determined to block President Obama’s executive order last fall to protect nearly five million illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation, House Republicans late last week unveiled a surprisingly far-ranging and hard hitting measure in retaliation. It would not only prevent DHS from implementing Obama’s order but also rescind his 2012 action to protect young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by a parent – the so-called “Dreamers” – from being deported as well.
The plan could get House approval as early as this week and then must pass muster with the new Republican controlled Senate before short-term funding for DHS is scheduled to expire on Feb. 28. While there is no way the House measure can get past Obama, some House Republicans say they would dare the president to veto the bill and trigger a partial shutdown of the department.
At a conference Monday sponsored by The Heritage Foundation, President Jim DeMint hailed the plan saying, “Hopefully, we can be part of building public support for this.” He went on to say that once the truth is communicated in the fact that they [the administration] want to divert funds from homeland security for what is an illegal amnesty, the possibility of a presidential veto diminishes. “His amnesty plan and his approach for the border has put us in a position where we’re less safe,” DeMint said.
The Department of Homeland Security was created in the wake of the 9-11 attacks and includes agencies responsible for customs and border protection, immigration enforcement, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service and other federal enforcement activities designed to prevent further attacks on this country.
A partial shutdown of the department potentially could cause serious disruptions in programs, at a time when lawmakers, administration officials and ordinary citizens are increasingly concerned about the potential for attacks – either by agents of ISIS and other Middle Eastern terrorist groups, or more home grown militants.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. who was in Paris last weekend during mass demonstrations against the terrorist attacks that left 17 victims dead, told CBS’s Face the Nation that the prospect of “lone wolf” terrorist attacks in the United States “frankly, keeps me up at night.”
Republicans went along with a deal with the administration in December to fund the Homeland Security Department through early this year to give the new GOP controlled Congress time to devise a strategy. Congress approved a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill to operate the remainder of the government through the fiscal year that ends next Sept. 30.
The goal of House GOP leaders and many conservative rank and file members has been to devise a way to deny DHS funding to implement the president’s executive order while keeping the rest of the sprawling agency operating. The core of the bill would provide $39.7 billion to the department, a $400 million increase from the previous fiscal year.
According to The New York Times, the House GOP strategy unveiled last Friday afternoon would be to amend the DHS spending bill to prevent any funds – either appropriations or fees collected from immigration applications – from being used to put in effect the protection for the nearly five million undocumented aliens.
Moreover, the plan would repeal the Deferred Action for the Childhood Arrivals program that Obama unilaterally ordered two years ago. And it would pull back several 2011 administration memos that expanded what immigration authorities may consider when deciding to defer or cancel deportation.
Those restrictions would have to be added to the overall spending bill by amendment. According to media reports, House GOP leaders and many Tea Party and far right members are in surprisingly strong agreement on the approach.
“We’re going to have a very solid vote,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KA), a frequent critic of the leadership who voted against House Speaker John Boehner last week, told Roll Call. “They don’t have to work the votes.”
While House Republicans acknowledge that their plan is problematic in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would need at least a half-dozen Democrats to advance the legislation, they are hoping that something similar to their approach might eventually be worked out by the two chambers and then sent to the president.
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