There's been a lot of talk in Republican circles about Congress's authority to stop President Obama's unilateral executive action on immigration. Now, a GOP lawmaker has actually filed a bill to do it.
The lawmaker is Alabama Rep. Martha Roby, who on Tuesday, the first day of the new session of Congress, introduced a bill called the "Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015."
It's a short, simple measure — just three pages. It is intended to apply to the coming appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security, which Congress funded only until the end of February in anticipation of a move to stop the Obama immigration edict.
Roby's bill is essentially a "none of the funds" clause, that is, it forbids the executive branch from spending money for a particular purpose. Instead of defunding the Department of Homeland Security as a whole, or any office within the department, the bill specifies that none of the funds available to DHS may be used to enforce two recent directives. The first is a November 20, 2014 memo from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson outlining new policies for the "apprehension, detention, and removal of undocumented immigrants." The second is a pair of presidential memos issued November 21, 2014, "Creating Welcoming Communities and Fully Integrating Immigrants and Refugees" and "Modernizing and Streamlining the U.S. Immigrant Visa System for the 21st Century."
Roby's bill would prohibit the expenditure of any money — no matter whether from appropriated funds, fees, or anywhere else — to enact the policy changes outlined in the administration directives. "It's very straightforward," Roby said in an interview Tuesday. "It lays out specifically that no funds will be used for these things."
Roby explained that she supported the strategy last month in which Congress funded all of the government on a long-term basis except DHS. "We did that so that we could have this fight on the president's overreach," she said. "I think that this prohibition language is the best way to do that."
Congress uses such language all the time. For example, the spending bill passed in December contained more than 450 "none of the funds" prohibitions. Lawmakers have passed thousands of such prohibitions over the years.
Roby said she filed her new bill as a standalone measure but believes the best way to enact it would be as part of the DHS appropriation. In any event, the measure would not shut down any office or lay off any federal worker. It would, instead, simply bar DHS from spending any money to enforce the president's executive action.
Roby said she heard from many constituents over the holiday break who "made it very clear to me that we should be using the power of the purse in the Congress to prevent the president from doing this." She said she has not yet had a detailed discussion with the House Republican leadership on the measure, but "I look forward to having a conversation with all of them about it. I felt like we needed to do something right out of the gate."