The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that would bar President Barack Obama from using an executive order to shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation, but the measure was largely viewed as a political message to the president.
Obama's recent immigration action angered most Republican lawmakers, who said he had overstepped his constitutional authority. They took to the House floor to urge support for the bill, introduced by Representative Ted Yoho of Florida.
Representative Tom McClintock, a California Republican, said Obama had triggered a constitutional crisis by taking unilateral action.
“If this president is allowed to stand, it will render meaningless the separation of powers and the checks and balances that comprise the fundamental architecture of our Constitution,” he said.
Protection for families
The White House said Obama was acting well within his constitutional authority to defer the deportations of the parents of U.S. citizen and permanent resident children in order to keep families together. It issued a statement saying if the House bill were to reach the president’s desk, he most likely would veto it.
On the Senate side, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said he will not bring the bill up for a vote.
Democratic lawmakers note that former Republican President Ronald Reagan also took executive action to shield undocumented immigrants, and that he was not accused of causing a constitutional crisis. Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois stood on the House floor beside a life-size paper cutout of Reagan and faulted House Republicans for not passing immigration reform like the Senate did in 2013.
“Apparently the majority prefers to take symbolic votes instead of legislating real and lasting solutions,” Gutierrez said.
Funding bill next
Analysts said Thursday’s vote was a way to let frustrated Republican members vent their anger so they can go ahead and approve a government funding bill next week. Republican House Speaker John Boehner indicated he would rather postpone another big budget showdown until the next Congress arrives in January.
“Next week, the House will work to keep the government open, while keeping our leverage, so that when we have reinforcements in the Senate, we are in the strongest position to take additional actions to fight the president’s unilateral actions," the Ohio Republican said.
Republicans will take majority control of the Senate in January. But before this Congress leaves for its holiday recess, both the House and Senate have to pass funding bills to avoid another partial government shutdown, like the one that lasted 16 days in October 2013.