WASHINGTON – Emboldened House Republicans issued a stern but symbolic rebuke to President Barack Obama over immigration Thursday, passing a bill declaring his executive actions to curb deportations “null and void and without legal effect.”
Outraged Democrats, immigrant advocates and the White House said the GOP was voting to tear families apart and eject parents.
Even supporters acknowledged that the bill by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., which says Obama was acting “without any constitutional or statutory basis,” was mostly meant to send a message. It stands no chance in the Senate, which remains under Democratic control until January, and faces the veto threat from Obama.
The real fight may lie ahead as conservatives push to use must-pass spending legislation to block Obama.
For now, Republicans insisted they must go on record denouncing what they described on the House floor as an outrageous power grab by Obama.
“The president thinks he can just sit in the Oval Office and make up his own laws. That’s not the way our system of government works,” said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La. “This legislation says you can’t do that, Mr. President. There is a rule of law.”
The vote was 219 to 197, with three Democratic “yes” votes and seven Republican “no” votes. Three Republicans voted “present.”
Obama’s executive actions last month will extend deportation relief and work permits to some 4 million immigrants here illegally, mostly those who have been in the country more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. He also reordered law enforcement priorities and expanded an existing deportation deferral program for immigrants brought illegally as kids.
Even as emotions ran high in debate on the bill, many involved acknowledged it was mostly a sideshow as Republicans struggled to find some way to undo what Obama has done. Party leaders acknowledged their options were limited given Obama’s veto pen.
The Yoho bill was part of a dual strategy by House GOP leadership to appease conservative immigration hardliners without risking a government shutdown. Their hope was that after approving it, Republicans would move on next week to vote on legislation to keep most of the government running for a year, with a shorter time frame for the Homeland Security Department, which oversees immigration. The idea is to revisit Homeland Security early next year when Republicans will control both houses at the Capitol and have more leverage.
The current government-funding measure expires Thursday, so a new one must pass by then.
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