The party has virtually no chance of forcing Obama to roll back his immigration plans, which would shield an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Here are a few reasons why:
For one thing, Democrats will likely filibuster any legislation that blocks Obama’s orders, just as they did in January and February with a House-passed bill to that effect.
Even if Senate Republicans agree to eliminate filibusters, as Democrats did during the last Congress, they don’t have the votes to overcome a presidential veto.
Republicans then have one other form of leverage: They can cut off Homeland Security funding in hopes that Obama will roll back his immigration plans.
For now, the president’s orders are on indefinite hold after a federal judge last month temporarily suspended the actions in response to a 26-state lawsuit challenging them. The Obama administration plans to appeal the decision, which could prolong the legal battle into next year, especially if the case moves to the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, hardline conservatives are still threatening to cut off Homeland Security funding until the president revokes his plans, suggesting that the court’s temporary suspension is not enough for them.
Shutdown threats have never worked on Obama, who has never conceded to one during his White House tenure. Furthermore, the last partial government closure in 2013 hurt Republicans’ approval ratings far more than his own — although it’s worth noting that the GOP still took control of the Senate in the 2014 midterm.
The president showed no signs of buckling to Republican pressure in recent days, telling immigrants at a televised town hall in Miami to prepare paperwork for deportation relief so that it is ready after the legal fight ends.
Even if lawmakers allow Homeland Security funding to lapse, the resulting shutdown will have almost no effect on Obama’s immigration plans. Again, the orders are on hold, but even if they weren’t, Obama could continue much of his plans without help from the congressional purse.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Homeland Security agency responsible for deportations, draws about 95 percent of its annual budget from application fees. That means the agency can largely survive without congressional appropriations.
As we noted in a previous Federal Eye article, USCIS’s budget is so unaffected by congressional funding that most of the agency’s employees worked through the 2013 government shutdown.
It’s unclear what Republicans will do about Homeland Security this week, but one thing is certain: They cannot block Obama’s immigration orders with a shutdown alone.