As Allahpundit observed on Tuesday, congressional Republicans agree that Barack Obama’s executive actions involving the extension of legal status to millions of illegal immigrants have to be fought. The GOP is, however, split on what methods would be the most effective in blunting or even reversing Obama’s actions.
Congress’s more conservative elements believe that a series of symbolic measures should be used in conjunction with more operationally focused tactics. Some, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), have suggested that Congress should not invite Obama to Congress for his annual State of the Union Address and that no presidential nominee should be confirmed until these orders are stricken.
Others believe that more practical measures should be taken, and those who support his approach have largely settled on a plan that would use a continuing budget resolution in combination with an omnibus spending bill to fund the government with the exception of Obama’s immigration enforcement measures. Allahpundit noted that the GOP is calling the plan “CROmnibus.”
Some like top House appropriator Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) have claimed that the GOP does not have the authority to de-fund the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency. “The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new Executive Order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown,” read a House Appropriations Committee statement.
On Wednesday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Breitbart that a report via the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service contends that Rogers is incorrect. The CRS indicated that Congress can deny funds to the immigration enforcement agency despite the fact that it operates primarily on revenues collected through the imposition of fees.
A fee-funded agency or activity typically refers to one in which the amounts appropriated by Congress for that agency or activity are derived from fees collected from some external source. Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency. In some cases, this appropriation is provided through the annual appropriations process. In other instances, it is an appropriation that has been enacted independently of the annual appropriations process (such as a permanent appropriation in an authorizing act). In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds.
According to The Huffington Post’s Igor Bobic, this strategy would be the safest political course for the GOP. “Funding for that agency would then be contingent on the president’s willingness to rescind his executive action shielding millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation,” he wrote. “Under such a plan, Republicans would avoid a costly government shutdown fight and still offer eager conservatives a viable way to counter the president.”