Why Washington Is Talking About a Government Shutdown - Again

Republicans weighing options to counter upcoming executive action on immigration

ByArlette Saenz
November 18, 2014, 11:58 AM
PHOTO: A cyclist rides across the front plaza of the US Capitol, Nov. 4, 2014, in Washington.
A cyclist rides across the front plaza of the US Capitol, Nov. 4, 2014, in Washington.
J. David Ake/AP Photo

— -- Talk of a shutdown is percolating again on Capitol Hill -- this time over immigration.

The political scars of last year’s government shutdown over Obamacare are still fresh, leading many Republicans to disavow suggestions they would consider shutting down the government again as an attempt to thwart President Obama’s upcoming executive action on immigration reform.

“We’ll not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the national debt,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Missouri, said last week.

“We're not heading into a government shutdown,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on CBS’ "Face the Nation." “Exactly what we do may depend on what he does and when he does it, how he goes about it, and what his proposed basis for doing that is.”

Republicans are floating myriad options to counter the president’s expected executive action -- from tying the immigration order to the upcoming government funding debate to litigating the issue in court.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, is among the lawmakers pushing for including language in the next spending bill that would keep any executive action from going into effect -- a move that could potentially lead to another government shutdown if Republicans and Democrats find themselves at a stalemate when the current continuing resolution expires on Dec. 11.

“President Obama’s executive amnesty will not be easy to execute," Sessions wrote in Politico magazine last week. "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will have to be ordered to redirect funds and personnel away from its statutorily mandated enforcement duties and towards processing applications, amnesty benefits, and employment authorizations for illegal immigrants and illegal overstays. It is a massive and expensive operation. And it cannot be implemented if Congress simply includes routine language on any government funding bill prohibiting the expenditure of funds for this unlawful purpose.

“Congress has the power of the purse. The president cannot spend a dime unless Congress appropriates it,” he added.

Some Republicans, such as Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, have raised the possibility of challenging the president in court.

“What ought to be done, frankly, is, No. 1, if we think he has gone beyond legal limits, we ought to go to the courts,” Cole said on ABC’s "This Week."

While he has yet to weigh in on what course of action should be taken, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Republicans will “fight tooth and nail” and consider all options to keep any executive action from going forward.

“Our goal here is to stop the president from violating his own oath of office and violating the Constitution. It’s not to shut down the government,” Boehner said last week. “We are looking at all options. They’re on the table.”

Despite objections from Republicans, set to control both chambers of Congress in January, President Obama has said he will issue an executive action on immigration reform by the end of the year.

“I'm just disappointed about what I hear in the White House,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said Tuesday. “The president had two years with the House and the Senate and did nothing on immigration, but he won't even allow this new American Congress to convene before we have an opportunity to do something about it.”

As Republicans discuss ways to counter any potential executive action, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he is working with McConnell and Boehner to come to an agreement on a funding bill that would keep the government from shutting down.

“We've heard there are going to be no government shutdowns from the leaders, but members of their caucuses are really saying some very scary things,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday. “The question is whether Republican leaders will be able to stand up to the radical forces within their own party.”

President Obama has said he’s undeterred by any talk of shutting down the government, saying his main concern is “making sure that we get it right.”

“There's no reason for it to shut down,” Obama said in a news conference at the G20 in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday. "We traveled down that path before. It was bad for the country, it was bad for every elected official in Washington and, at the end of the day, was resolved in the same way that it would've been resolved if we hadn't shut the government down."

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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