POLITICS
12/04/2014 02:36 pm ET Updated Dec 04, 2014

House Republicans Vote To Block Obama's Deportation Relief

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans on Thursday voted to block the president's executive actions on immigration, approving a dead-on-arrival bill that would keep millions of undocumented parents and people who came to the U.S. as children at risk of deportation.

The bill was approved in a 219-197 vote, with three Republican members voting "present." The results largely fell along party lines, but seven Republicans voted against the measure, while three Democrats voted for it.

The vote was meant, in part, to give conservatives a chance to voice their disapproval of President Barack Obama's immigration executive actions before they work next week to fund the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, that will carry out the new policies.

Obama announced executive actions last month that could shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The largest component is a new program, which will begin sometime next year, that will allow undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children and legal permanent residents to stay and work legally if they have been here for five or more years, and if they pass a background check and meet other requirements. The executive actions also expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which was started in 2012 to give work authorization and protection to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. under the age of 16 and meet other requirements.

The White House issued a veto threat for the House bill on Thursday, saying it "would have devastating consequences" for families and immigration enforcement efforts.

Republicans have said both DACA and the new executive actions are an overreach of Obama's authority that threatens the Constitution. They took to the House floor on Thursday to decry the move.

"President Obama has just announced one of the biggest constitutional power grabs ever by a president," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee. He added later, "The bill reaffirms the constitutional principles that only Congress has the power to write immigration laws and that the president must enforce those laws."

In the final vote, the seven Republicans who opposed the measure were Reps. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.). The three Republicans to vote present were Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa), Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.).

The three Democrats to vote with Republicans were Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.). The three also voted in August to end DACA .

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) issued a statement after the House bill was approved confirming it would not get a vote in the Senate "since it tears families apart while doing nothing to fix the real problems we face."

Some conservatives, including King and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have said Republicans should block all funding to DHS unless the bill includes language to block Obama's executive actions on immigration. Should the House do so, it would put DHS at risk of a shutdown later this month, since Senate Democrats are unlikely to approve a measure to stop Obama's executive action, and the president almost certainly would veto it.

Instead, House Republican leaders are aiming to take a two-part approach, which has been coined the "cromnibus." The first part was the vote on the deportation relief bill. Then, next week, the House could pass legislation funding most of the government until the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, 2015, but exempting DHS. That agency instead would be funded at its current levels until earlier next year, potentially January or February, allowing Republicans to address the executive actions again with a Republican-led Senate.

Republicans may have to rely on Democrats in the House to approve that package, which has not been ruled out by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). At a press conference earlier Thursday, she said they will have to see what the Republicans are proposing, but that she has reached out to Boehner to "extend the hand of friendship," and that they "want to work together to pass a bill to keep government open."

Reid indicated at a press conference on Tuesday that his caucus would be open to approving the "cromnibus," so long as it didn't have other measures attached. The White House has reportedly not ruled out a short-term funding package.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters on Thursday that continuing funding for DHS into early next year would allow Republicans to keep their leverage. "I frankly think this gives us the best chances for success," he said.

He acknowledged that Republicans are limited in what they can do to block the president's actions.

"We have limited options in terms of how we can deal with this, but there are options out there and we're going to pursue them," Boehner said.

This story has been updated to include an additional statement by Reid, and further details of the vote count.

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