(Bloomberg Politics) — To understand why the current peace in the House Republican conference is so curious, you need to think back to the fall of 2013. At that time, the party’s base—inside and outside of Congress—wanted to smother the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in its cradle. They wanted to change the must-pass appropriations bill so that “no funds” could implement PPACA.
At the time, Majority Leader Eric Cantor tried to trick conservatives into a protest vote. There’d be one measure to defund Obamacare; there’d be a separate vote on funding the government. Cantor hoped that would satisfy the conservatives who’d signed a letter written by North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, and pledged to defund PPACA. It didn’t work. “It’s a plan to facilitate the passage of a CR in a way that allows people to claim that they’re defunding Obamacare without actually doing so,” groused Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
Cantor lost out, Lee and Meadows won, and for thirteen days the federal government was shut down in a spat over PPACA. And for most conservatives, the GOP’s fantastic 2014 election wins proved that the shutdown did not hurt them.
Yet the Republican House is sliding into a series of immigration votes that aren’t much different—in terms of challenging the Obama administration—than the 2013 Cantor “hocus pocus.” On Friday, at an hourlong meeting, Republican leaders introduced a package of immigration amendments to the coming $39.7 billion bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Republicans would get to vote on ending the deferred action programs of 2012 and 2014. There’s no guarantee that the amendments will pass, or that if they pass they’ll survive a conference committee.
At the same time, conservatives are introducing their own Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)-defunding bills, untethered to anything that must pass. Iowa Rep. Steve King has offered the succinctly titled Defund Executive Amnesty Act of 2015. Two Alabama Republicans, Rep. Robert Aderholt and Rep. Martha Roby, have offered (respectively) the 44-page Repeal Executive Amnesty Act of 2015 and the three-page Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015. Roby’s bill echoes the name and text of a 2014 bill from Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, which the House passed while passing a funding bill that didn’t actually touch the immigration orders.
Yoho’s bill was ridiculed by restrictionists. “Even if the Yoho bill had a path to enactment,” wrote NumbersUSA, “and even if the bill weren’t riddled with loopholes, Americans understand that amending the law to reign in a lawless President is a pointless endeavor. Instead, Americans expect Congress to use its constitutional power of the purse effectively to prevent President Obama from carrying out his illegal amnesty.”
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, had basically the same critique. “Congress needs to do everything it can to rein in the imperial presidency – not just this incumbent but his successors, as well – by using an all-of-the-above strategy,” Krikorian said in 2014. “Deny, file one or more lawsuits, deny nominees confirmation, and educate the public.”