POLITICS
01/27/2015 12:03 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2015

John Boehner To Take Step To Potentially Sue Obama Over Immigration

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told GOP members on Tuesday in a closed-door meeting that the body could take legal action against President Barack Obama over his deportation relief policies.

"We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue -- one we believe gives us the best chance of success," Boehner said, according to an email from a source in the room. National Journal first reported the news.

The source said the plan would take the form of a resolution that would allow the House to file its own lawsuit, join a suit from 26 states or take other legal action. The source said no timeline has been set for the resolution. The House will continue to work on legislative efforts to combat the president's executive actions, the source said.

The House voted earlier this month to fund the Department of Homeland Security -- a must-do by the end of February to avoid an agency shutdown -- along with measures to block the president's executive actions on immigration. The largest components of those actions are deportation relief programs: one that would grant temporary work authorization and the ability to stay in the country to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. years ago as children, and another that would do the same for parents of Americans and legal permanent residents.

Senate GOP leaders have said the House Republicans' bill will get a vote in the upper chamber, but the timing is unclear, and it is highly unlikely the legislation will pass since it would require Democratic support to get the 60 votes needed.

When asked Tuesday what the House would do if the Senate can't pass its DHS bill, Boehner gave no details.

"There's no reason for me to speculate about what we will or won't do," he said in a press conference after meeting with House GOP members. "At this point, it's up to the Senate to act, and I expect that they will soon."

A lawsuit could provide a solution to the problem. Should the House file a suit on its own or join a state-led lawsuit, the chamber could show it is doing something to combat the president's actions and then fund DHS without those measures -- although it's unclear whether hard-line conservatives would go for that strategy.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who is leading the charge to combat Obama's immigration executive actions in the Senate, told HuffPost later Tuesday that it would be "appropriate" to sue, but that he wants Congress to continue fighting through legislation as well.

"Just as a personal matter, I think whenever possible Congress should use its powers," he continued. "Now, it's hard when the president has a veto power or one body or the other is in the other party's hand, so maybe sometimes we just have to go to court. But in theory, Congress should defend its power from overreach by the executive branch."

Drew Hammill, the spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the lawsuit "is an embarrassing admission of failure."

"Once again, House Republicans are crawling to the courts to relieve them of their responsibility to govern," he said. "Republicans should stop wasting millions of taxpayer dollars suing the President, and start showing some seriousness for the security of the American people."

Hammill went on to say Republicans should focus on funding for DHS instead.

"Republicans’ loathing for immigrants and the President is already clear," he said. "It’s time for Republicans to stop threatening the safety of American families and join with Democrats to fund the Department of Homeland Security immediately."

The 26 states suing the president over immigration executive actions, led by Texas, contend that the president overstepped his authority. The White House and its defenders -- including 12 states and a number of mayors -- say he acted within his powers to allow immigration agents to focus on deporting recent border-crossers, convicted criminals and national security threats.

The House sued the president in November over changes to his health care law, Obamacare.

This post has been updated to note that no timeline has been set for the resolution to allow the lawsuit. Comment from Drew Hammill and Sen. Jeff Sessions has also been added.

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