WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) contends that unilateral action by President Barack Obama on immigration, which is expected this fall, will doom future chances for reform by poisoning the well in Congress. The one-time champion for comprehensive immigration reform wants Senate Republicans to combat the likely executive action through the budget process when Congress returns in September.
"There will have to be some sort of a budget vote or a continuing resolution vote, so I assume there will be some sort of a vote on this," Rubio told Breitbart in an interview published Tuesday. "I'm interested to see what kinds of ideas my colleagues have about using funding mechanisms to address this issue."
After Congress returns on Sept. 8, lawmakers will have just 10 working days to come to consensus on a continuing resolution to fund the government or risk a shutdown. Two particularly contentious issues -- the renewal of the Export-Import Bank and newly proposed rules on coal-fired power plants -- already threaten to derail that agreement. Adding immigration to the debate would complicate matters further and potentially trigger a domestic crisis on the eve of the Nov. 4 midterm elections.
Aside from the politics of another potential shutdown fight, it's unclear what "funding mechanisms" Senate Republicans would attach to a continuing resolution that could limit an executive action on immigration. A spokesman for Rubio declined to provide any specifics when reached for comment on Tuesday.
Last summer, Rubio pursued a similar strategy by joining Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Mike Lee (Utah) and Rand Paul (Ky.) in refusing to fund the federal government unless the White House signed off on defunding the Affordable Care Act. Democrats balked, and the ensuing 16-day partial shutdown cost Republicans severely in the arena of public opinion. Yet Republicans were on solid constitutional footing in that instance: They could use the power of the purse to threaten to withhold funding for the health care law, shutdown be damned. However, if the White House decides to act on immigration unilaterally, Republicans will be left with fewer options -- save for suing the president.
Rubio isn't the only one to raise the possibility of another government funding fight. In an interview with Politico earlier this month, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised that he would use spending bills in similar fashion to force skirmishes with the White House should Republicans retake the upper chamber.
"We're going to pass spending bills, and they're going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy," McConnell said. "That's something he won't like, but that will be done. I guarantee it."