December 7, 2014 - 3:28 am
WASHINGTON — In a symbolic gesture of disapproval, House Republicans last week approved a bill to nullify President Barack Obama’s executive order shielding millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation.
Republicans called the order an unconstitutional overreach of Obama’s authority. Democrats called the Republican move anti-immigrant and a waste of time.
The bill, which the Democratically controlled Senate is expected to ignore, was designed by GOP leaders to give conservative members a place to express their unhappiness with the executive order. In that way, leaders hoped to avoid a tumultuous end-of-session battle they feared could lead to another unpopular government shutdown.
The House, looking to complete a lame-duck session, is scheduled to vote this week on separate legislation to authorize most federal agencies to operate through the fiscal year that ends in September, except the agency that handles immigration. Spending for that agency would expire early next year, giving the GOP an opportunity to block funding for Obama’s immigration order when it controls both the House and Senate.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said the president’s “lawless, unconstitutional act” should not be tolerated by anyone who takes an oath to uphold the Constitution.
“Anybody that would vote to fund it can’t sincerely take this oath next January,” he said.
Obama has argued that the action was needed because the House had refused to consider immigration reform. The Senate passed an immigration reform bill last year by a wide margin.
The disapproval bill passed, 219-197, with three Democrats in favor and seven Republicans opposed. Three Republicans, including King, voted “present.”
Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck, both R-Nev., voted for the disapproval measure. Reps. Steve Horsford and Dina Titus, both D-Nev., opposed it.
MILITARY SPENDING BACKED
The House passed a $585 billion defense policy bill for 2015 that would cut Pentagon spending by nearly $50 billion, representing a declining U.S. role in Afghanistan and across-the-board cuts imposed under an earlier-adopted sequestration deal.
The bill was approved 300-119. It was expected to be completed by the Senate by the end of the week.
The annual legislation has been approved by Congress for 52 consecutive years and is considered a “must-pass” measure to show support for American troops. A slew of nonrelated items — including 93 natural resource and energy projects — were attached to the bill.
Some lawmakers expressed opposition to Obama’s request for $5 billion to expand airstrikes and dispatch additional personnel to battle Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq.
The House bill did spare some military benefits. The Pentagon had wanted to reduce housing benefits by 5 percent, but the bill capped the reduction at 1 percent. The bill would limit any increase in prescription drug co-pays to $3. The House also voted to block the Pentagon from retiring its fleet of A-10 fighters.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who is retiring, urged colleagues to support the bill.
“Please show our troops the respect they deserve,” McKeon said.
Nevada’s delegation voted for the bill.
HOUSE SUPPORTS TAX BREAKS
The House approved legislation that would reinstate tax breaks for businesses and individuals that expired earlier this year.
The one-year retroactive renewal on more than 50 expired tax breaks would save businesses and individuals about $42 billion over the next decade. It includes tax breaks on wind production, renewable fuels, mortgage debt forgiveness and state and local sales taxes.
Legislative leaders had been working on a broader long-term agreement but that collapsed under a veto threat. Obama complained the emerging deal tilted too far to business and omitted some key tax breaks for lower-income families.
“The administration’s actions now force us to take a different and less effective approach,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. “The IRS has been clear, unless Congress acts quickly, it will be forced to delay the start of the tax filing season. American families are struggling to make ends meet as wages remain flat, even as expenses increase. These families can’t and should not face a delay in getting their tax refund.”
Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, the Ways and Means Committee’s ranking Democrat, said he supported the temporary extension. He said the agreement scuttled by the veto threat was harmful and irresponsible.
The bill was approved, 378-46. Amodei, Heck, Horsford and Titus voted for it.
Contact Peter Urban at email@example.com or at 202-783-1760.