An outspoken conservative senator said today that he expects “some” Democrats to join him in supporting an expansive plan by the House of Representatives to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would not speculate if Republicans could count on enough Democrats to ultimately pass legislation in the Senate defunding Obama’s immigration actions.
But Lee argues that though Democrats support the policy of Obama’s immigration actions — which defer deportation for up to 5 million immigrants living in the United States illegally and grant them work permits — some don’t approve of how the president acted without Congress to implement them.
“The reason I say I expect some Democrats to join with us is that this is not a clear cut, down-the-middle split in terms of partisan affiliation,” Lee told The Daily Signal after speaking at Heritage Action’s Conservative Policy Summit.
“There is an instinct of many Democratic Senators to want to support the president because he is a member of their political party. But there are people all over the country who regardless of how they feel about the underlying policy, there is a lot of discomfort with what the president has done. In other words, even if they like the policy outcome, they are not comfortable with how that outcome was achieved here.”
“There is a lot of discomfort with what the president has done,” says @SenMikeLee
Last week, the House released a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of September that includes several amendments that seek to defund Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The amendments include language that would not only prevent Obama from implementing his recent executive actions, but also undo the administration’s earlier protections for immigrants brought to the country illegally at a young age — under a program called Deferred Deportation for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
The House is expected to vote on the bill this week. If it were to pass the House, it will then move to the Senate.
“I am happy that they [House lawmakers] are going after it,” Lee said. “I am happy they are taking a real hard look at what the president is trying to do, and what they can do to serve as a check on what many properly regard as an act of executive overreach. I expect Republicans [Senators] will follow the same course and some Democrats will be inclined to join with us.”
The Senate has not indicated how quickly it would move on the House bill if it were to pass, but GOP leadership in both chambers likely want to act well before Feb. 27 — when Homeland Security funding expires — so that any policy differences can be debated without going down to the wire.
Though passage in the Republican-dominated House is a near certainty, there is doubt that the plan would fail to gain the 60 votes in the Senate needed to break a Democratic filibuster.
Lee would not name Democrats who might vote for legislation against Obama’s immigration actions.
Based on prior voting record, two Democrats to consider are Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
In the old Congress last September, Manchin and Shaheen voted with Republicans to open up a vote against DACA.
But when Politico asked Manchin last week if he’d support the House’s new plan, he said, “I really don’t want to.”
While some moderate Democratic Senators oppose the president’s unilateral moves on immigration, they worry about linking the issue with Homeland Security spending and flirting with a shutdown of that department.
Lee argues that the strategy of using a spending bill as the means to block Obama’s immigration policy is the only chance of success in today’s political environment.
“This [spending legislation] is the way– in this Congress it’s probably the only way — we’d be able to stop him,” Lee said. “We don’t want it [DHS funding] to expire and that’s why we’re working on proposals to keep DHS funded while restricting the funds that the president may spend on furthering his executive action which we regard as unlawful.”