House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) vowed Friday to confront President Obama's unilateral executive actions to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, saying the moves were "damaging the presidency" and warning that Congress will not let them stand without a fight.
"The House will, in fact, act," he said.
Boehner declined to spell out how Republicans would counter the actions, which extend protections to roughly 4 million undocumented parents of legal U.S. citizens and young immigrants brought here illegally when they were children.
"We're working with our members and looking at the options available to us, but I will say to you the House will, in fact, act," Boehner told reporters Friday morning, in the first televised Republican rebuttal to Obama's prime-time address Thursday night.
He dodged a question about the assertion by one of his own leadership team members, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), that there was little Congress could do to restrict funding for the new program. Rogers and his staff said Thursday that funding for the implementation of the new policy does not come from the annual spending bills approved by Congress but instead comes from border fees, placing it outside the reach of congressional Republicans.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the leading opponent of the president's action, told reporters Thursday that he would support attaching a policy rider onto the government funding bills that simply forbid the federal workforce from implementing the new rules on immigration. Sessions is leading the effort to keep government funding to a short leash into the new year, when Republicans take over the Senate and control both chambers of Congress, making it easier to get clear majorities for his preferred line of attack.
Such a move would require a 60-vote super-majority in the Senate, and it would almost certainly draw a veto from Obama, which, critics say, would lead to a possible shutdown of some federal agencies.
Boehner deflected those questions and instead blamed Obama for issuing too many executive orders to modify the controversial new health law that took effect over the last year, which left his rank-and-file Republicans unwilling to trust the president and refusing to even consider a broad rewrite of immigration laws.
"He created an environment where the members could not trust him, and trying to find a way to work together was virtually impossible, and I had warned the president over and over that his actions were making it impossible for me to do what he wanted me to do," the speaker said, explaining his inability to even consider smaller pieces of the 2013 Senate-approved legislation that revamped border and immigration laws.
"We have a broken immigration system, and the American people expect us to work together to fix it, and we ought to do it through the democratic process," he said.