House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) is considering expanding a proposed federal lawsuit over President Obama’s executive orders to include action on immigration. Filing a separate lawsuit over the president’s authority to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation is another option that gained traction Thursday during talks among party leaders.
The idea to use the courts as an initial means of dissent, should the president move forward in the coming weeks to protect millions from deportation, moved to the front of the House GOP’s playbook after the leadership reviewed it. Boehner reportedly wants to respond forcefully and quickly should the president act and believes a lawsuit would do that, as well as signal to conservatives in his conference that he shares their frustrations about the president’s use of executive power.
Several Republicans who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid confirmed Boehner’s outlook and the thrust of the leadership’s discussions. They cautioned that any final decision by House Republicans will be made only after consulting rank-and-file members in the wake of a White House announcement — if the president decides to issue executive orders on immigration.
Boehner first announced plans to initiate a federal suit against Obama in late June, when he called the president’s executive orders an unconstitutional power grab by one branch of government.
But the suit has wallowed ever since as GOP lawmakers have struggled to find a D.C. area law firm willing to take up their legal fight. In recent weeks, many observers have speculated privately that Boehner was purposely stalling his legal fight to include whatever actions Obama opts to take to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
Whether the lawsuit will hold merit in federal court remains unclear. But Obama himself has strongly disputed the merits of the case.
“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” he said during an interview with ABC News shortly after Boehner’s announcement. “The suit is a stunt.”
Obama has pledged to use his executive powers to alter the immigration system before the end of the year, though it remains unclear exactly when he will act. He has asked top aides and Cabinet secretaries to present him with options, but has not yet formally huddled with them to make a final decision, according to administration officials.
Among the options under consideration are proposals that could potentially protect as many as 6 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, according to several people familiar with Obama’s plans.
To more clearly clarify his administration’s deportation policy, Obama is said to be considering instructions that would make clear that immigration agencies should focus on deporting criminals and repeat immigration offenders. New steps to stiffen security operations along the U.S.-Mexico border are also expected.
In a concession to the business community that Republicans would be hard-pressed to oppose, Obama is likely to expand visa programs for immigrants working for high-tech firms. Doing so would fulfill the wishes of Silicon Valley executives, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many GOP lawmakers who have advocated making it easier for high-tech firms to recruit skilled workers from overseas