Republicans in the House and Senate may soon team up on a new federal lawsuit challenging immigration reforms ordered by President Obama if Congress fails to block them through legislation, according to a senior lawmaker.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) defended plans for the House to pass legislation on Wednesday that would block the Department of Homeland Security from implementing a series of changes Obama ordered by executive action last year. The bill would set funding for DHS through the end of the fiscal year in September, but include language barring the department's disparate agencies from spending money to enact Obama's changes and to end other programs that grant temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of people, including those brought illegally to the United States as young children.
Obama has vowed to veto the measure, which already faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. Republicans control 54 seats, but 60 votes will be needed to advance the bill, and no Democratic senator has expressed support for the GOP-written bill. The impasse means Senate Republicans likely will need to craft a compromise bill that can pass the Senate and head back to the House for final approval before current homeland security funding expires on Feb. 27.
Goodlatte said House Republicans are forging ahead amid "a lot of concern in the United States Senate as well as in the House in the president’s executive overreach. This extends beyond immigration to the question of whether the president can take his pen and his phone and act in a whole host of areas where he has done so beyond the scope of laws that have been signed in. Whether it’s Obamacare or drug enforcement or environmental laws, there’s a limit to the president’s powers and he has definitely -- as many in the House and the Senate believe -- has exceeded his authority."
Goodlatte noted that several states are now challenging Obama's immigration actions in court, but that they have different legal arguments than the ones that could be brought by GOP lawmakers.
"No decision has been made about that," he said, before adding that it's likely to be the subject of talks at a two-day GOP policy retreat that begins Thursday at a conference center in Hershey, Pa.
"Congress has the right to write the laws and appropriate funds to programs under Article I of the Constitution, and if we are successful in using that legislation and make it clear that there is no legal authority for the president’s actions, then we don’t need to get to litigation," he said.
"If that doesn’t work out, not only should we continue to support efforts by other groups… but the Congress itself should bring its own litigation because of the separation of powers argument and very strong concern that we have that the president is acting in Article I of the Constitution where he doesn’t have the authority to do that."
Goodlatte spoke at a reporter breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor and used the appearance to unveil his agenda for the judiciary panel in the next two years. There will be hearings on a wide range of issues, stretching from GOP concerns with new regulations written by the Obama administration, to net neutrality, Internet taxation, cybersecurity, patent reform and copyright law.
Goodlatte also said that his committee is keeping tabs on Justice Department investigations into police tactics in the wake of incidents in Ferguson, Mo. and in New York City and that it will continue exploring "overcriminalization" or "bloated, disorganized and often redundant criminal offenses" leveled by the states and federal government.