According to several reports, President Obama is poised to announce a plan to issue work permits to 4.5 million or more illegal immigrants. This move should throw a major kink into the plan of congressional Republican leaders to pass a long-term budget deal during the lame duck session.
The Republican leadership’s desire for a long-term deal is not surprising. No sensible Republican wants another government shutdown. Moreover, other things being equal, it’s arguably in the Party’s interest (though also arguably not) to clear the decks of budget squabbles in order to enact substantive legislation.
But Obama’s aggressive immigration posture means that unless Republicans are willing to accept amnesty by executive fiat, they should not pass a long-term budget deal.
Why? As Mark Krikorian explains, although Congress cannot cannot stop Obama’s passive abuse of discretion — e.g., exempting the vast majority of illegal aliens from immigration enforcement — it can try to use its “power of the purse” to prevent active abuses — e.g., issuing permits, Social Security cards, and driver’s licenses to illegal aliens — that would be politically irreversible.
Harry Reid will not agree to any funding riders prohibiting Obama from issuing work permits to illegal aliens. But in the next session of Congress, Republicans could pull out the Homeland Security budget (rather than fold it into an omnibus funding bill for the whole government) and attach a rider that prohibits DHS from issuing such permits.
Obama will veto this action. However, when he does, only DHS will be subject to a “shutdown.”
Moreover, says Krikorian, the shutdown will not be harmful. Law enforcement personnel — the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, ICE, and the TSA — will continue to perform their duties because they are “essential.” By contrast, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) — which would be charged with issuing various papers to illegal aliens — might shut down.
Accordingly, Republicans should not agree to a long-term budget deal. Instead, they should approve a short-term Continuing Resolution. By doing so, they will leave the new, Republican-controlled Congress in a position to attempt to undermine Obama’s amensty at the beginning of 2015.
The Democrats will squwak. But if the GOP is willing to keep spending unchanged (for a few months only), the Dems will probably go along in the end. If not, they clearly would be to blame for shutting down the government, and of doing so on behalf of amnesty for illegal immigrants.