WASHINGTON – In a mostly partisan vote, the House voted Thursday to reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders that gave legal status to about 5 million undocumented immigrants. The bill is unlikely to get any further than joining the pile of unconsidered bills in the Senate.
The bill, called the Stop Executive Amnesty Act, passed 219-197. Three Democrats voted with Republicans to support the bill, and seven Republicans voted against it. Three Republicans voted "present" instead of choosing yes or no.
Democrats, who control the Senate for a few more weeks, have no plans to bring the bill for a vote in the upper chamber. And when the current session of the Congress ends in January, the bill will officially be dead. Obama also issued a veto threat hours before the vote.
"I will not bring this bill up for a vote in the Senate since it tears families apart while doing nothing to fix the real problems we face," Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said after the House vote.
Republicans have admitted they have few options to stop the president’s move on immigration. Some conservatives have advocated a more aggressive fight this year with Obama over the orders, but the GOP leadership appears to be reluctantly admitting that there is little they can do while Democrats still control the Senate.
Two of the Democrats who voted with Republicans -- Reps. John Barrow, of Georgia and Mike McIntyre, of North Carolina – are not returning next session either because of retirement or electoral defeat. Rep. Collin Peterson, of Minnesota, also voted yes.
Five of the Republicans who voted against the bill have voiced support for immigration reform in the past: Reps. Mike Coffman, of Colorado, Jeff Denham, of California, Mario Diaz-Balart, of Florida, David Valadao, of California, Marlin Stutzman, of Indiana,
Two of the opposing Republicans – Reps. Louie Gohmert, of Texas, and Marlin Stutzman, of Indiana – have been highly critical of the resolution, saying it was an empty gesture that won’t accomplish anything.
“I am afraid it is nothing more than a symbolic gesture at best and does little to prevent the president’s dangerous action from being put into place,” Stutzman said in a statement. “I strongly believe Congress should continue to listen to our constituents and find meaningful ways to stop it. For these reasons I do not support this bill.”
Two of the three Republicans who opted to vote “present” are conservatives who have been critical of their leadership for not taking a strong enough stance against Obama: Reps. Paul Gosar, of Arizona, and Steve King, of Iowa. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who has supported some type of immigration reform, also voted “present.”
Bringing the bill, which was sponsored by Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, to a vote is part of the leadership’s plan to appease conservatives in the chamber while also moving a funding bill that will keep the government open. Congress must pass a funding bill by next Thursday to prevent another federal shutdown.
Next week, the House GOP is expected to offer a “cromnibus” bill, which will provide government funding for most of the federal agencies through September 2015. But the bill will fund the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for overseeing immigration enforcement and border security, only through the beginning of next year.
Republicans are hopeful that by forcing a vote early next year on funding immigration agencies, they will be able to use that leverage to force the president to reverse his executive orders. But even that could be loaded with problems. The parts that the bill won’t fund are the functions that Republicans like, such as border security and deportation enforcement. Halting those operations to force leverage will be virtually impossible.
This article has been updated to include response from Sen. Harry Reid.