WASHINGTON (AP) — Trying to avoid a showdown over immigration, House Republican leaders are moving to make a deal with Democrats to pass a spending bill that would keep the government running past next week.
The emerging strategy follows legislation passed Thursday by the House declaring President Barack Obama’s executive actions to curb deportations of immigrants in the U.S. illegally to be “null and void.” That legislation wasn’t enough for some conservatives, who complained that the only way to stop Obama’s actions on immigration would be to forbid them in legislation that must pass if the government is to stay open.
Republican leaders are opposed to that course of action, fearing a government shutdown that they don’t want, and they plan to rely on Democratic votes to pass a bill to keep the government going.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said Friday that Democrats were committed to keeping the government open, but she warned that Republicans could lose their support if they include too many contentious so-called policy riders in the spending bill, on issues like school lunch nutrition standards and water quality.
“We haven’t seen the bill. But there are some very destructive riders in it that would be unacceptable to us and, I think, unacceptable to the American people,” Pelosi said.
“The responsibility to keep government open is theirs. If the bill is anything that we can support, we will,” added Pelosi, who has more leverage in the negotiations because of Boehner’s likely need to rely on her to deliver Democratic votes.
The spending bill would pay for the operations of most government agencies for a year while extending the Homeland Security Department operations only for a few months. Homeland Security includes the immigration agencies that would carry out Obama’s executive actions, so the approach would allow Republicans to revisit them early next year, once they have control of the Senate and a bigger majority in the House.
“We think this is the most practical way to fight the president’s action,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Several conservative lawmakers sounded resigned Thursday to being ignored by Boehner, who with a bigger majority next year will have more room to maneuver around balky tea party lawmakers.
“My assumption is that the fix is in and they don’t need us,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “They’re going to vote this with a large number of Democrats.”
The omnibus spending bill would cover the approximately one-third of the budget dedicated to day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies. There’s slightly more than $1 trillion for the Pentagon and domestic agencies plus more than $70 billion to tackle overseas military operations in Afghanistan and to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Obama appeared likely to get most of his $6.2 billion request for fighting Ebola at home and in Africa but not the infrastructure money he has requested.
Most of the money issues are largely worked out, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said. But many of the policy riders, on environmental regulations, long-haul trucker hours, labor relations and more are unresolved.
GOP Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, hopes to achieve the framework of a deal with Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, by the end of Friday and release it Monday.
The bill on deportations, approved on a 219-197 vote, put the House on record against Obama’s actions granting work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., was among those who wanted more direct action to block what the president is doing.
“Having said we’re going to do everything we can to stop this — and then to do nothing to stop it — really hurts,” he said.