On what could be the last lawmaking session before the summer recess, both House and Senate are preparing bills to one-up each other on immigration. First, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that if the House passes a border crisis bill, he and Senate Democrats might attach the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill to it — a move that would clearly doom the whole border emergency spending effort.
Now, House Republican leaders have written a bill that would stop President Obama from using executive power to legalize millions of currently illegal immigrants — something Obama is widely thought to be getting ready to do. That, too, would kill plans to relieve the current border crisis.
Congress has the power to overturn executive orders. And there's no reason Congress can't do so in advance — that is, pass a law that would prevent the president from doing whatever he planned to do in an executive order. Of course, that would require that both House and Senate actually pass a law, which won't happen in today's divided environment. (And even if it did, Congress would have to override a guaranteed presidential veto.) But in this case, the Republican-controlled House can at least start the process.
That is what the House GOP plans to do. On Wednesday, lawmakers quickly cobbled together H.R. 5272, sponsored by Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, which is all of two pages long and would bar Obama from unilaterally legalizing currently illegal immigrants.
The bill says that "unless explicitly authorized by law" — that is, unless Congress authorizes it — the federal government may not issue any "guidance, memorandums, regulations, policies, or other similar instruments" that would expand the number of illegal immigrants eligible for deferred action under President Obama's 2012 executive order that stopped deportations of some illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. The bill would also bar any part of the federal government from "newly authoriz[ing] deferred action for any class of aliens not in lawful immigration status in the United States." And it would bar the government from "newly authoriz[ing] any alien to work in the United States" if that person is in the country illegally. That pretty much covers what Obama is reportedly planning to do.
The House Rules Committee held a late-night meeting Wednesday to pass a rule providing for quick consideration of the bill. The committee decided that H.R. 5272 will be taken up by the House after passage — at least the expected passage — of the $659 million border supplemental spending bill. If passed, both bills would be non-starters in the Democratic-controlled Senate, just as Reid's threatened gambit would be a non-starter in the GOP-controlled House. The bottom line is that both houses of Congress may take action Thursday, but nothing will be done.