(Bloomberg) — U.S. House Republicans are close to doing what just weeks ago seemed unthinkable: take the threat of a partial government shutdown this month off the table with time to spare.
Credit a plan hatched by House Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants to let Republicans vent their anger over President Barack Obama’s immigration orders while working with Democrats to renew most government spending through September 2015.
Lawmakers of both parties said they’re open to the Boehner-backed, two-step approach. In step one, the House would cast a symbolic vote against Obama’s orders easing deportations. Step two would see both chambers pass a separate bill to fund almost all of the federal government.
“There’s no danger of shutdown,” said Louisiana Representative John Fleming, who said yesterday he could support the proposal with changes in timing. He was among Republicans who backed a drive in 2013 to defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), leading to a 16-day partial shutdown over “Obamacare”and a drop in Republican public approval.
The strategy would be a victory for Boehner’s ability to control the Tea Party wing of his conference after the November election. Republican insistence on using a government funding bill to challenge Obama’s immigration orders would be unlikely to pass the Democratic-led Senate.
Even if it did, Obama has said he would veto legislation that would block his immigration orders. Congress must pass funding legislation by Dec. 11 or risk a partial government shutdown.
Obama said today he was encouraged by statements from Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell about preventing another shutdown, “and I take them at their word.”
“The one thing I can say for certain is that no one benefits by the government shutting down,” the president told members of the Business Roundtable in Washington.
Still, some Republicans in Congress oppose Boehner’s plan, including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who said passing a symbolic bill against the deportation orders would be a “meaningless show vote.”
Cruz, who led the drive for the 2013 shutdown, said today that Congress should pass a short-term spending bill that would add language blocking Obama’s immigration orders to funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice.
Speaking today at a news conference with about a dozen other Republicans who back that strategy, Cruz said the Senate also should block confirmations for all non-national security presidential appointments.
Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican and co-founder of the chamber’s Tea Party caucus, joined with Cruz in calling for the House to pass a short-term funding bill that blocks implementation of Obama’s immigration orders.
“The American people deserve to know where members of Congress stand on this issue,” Lee said in an e-mailed statement. ‘The power of the purse is one of the tools Congress has to rein in an out-of-control executive.’’
Boehner of Ohio told reporters yesterday that Republicans “have limited options and limited abilities” to act directly on immigration. He said lawmakers are considering “a variety of options” for action this month and next year.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled he’d be open to the approach if Republican leaders can gather enough House votes to advance it. It would be a “big accomplishment” to fund most of the government for the rest of the fiscal year, said the Nevada Democrat.
Reid said the Senate won’t take up the other House bill, which would deny the president authority to protect undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from deportation.