Republican lawmakers are split on what to do about President Barack Obama's pending executive actions on immigration.
At issue is whether to risk the possibility of another government shutdown by adding a rider provision to must-pass budget legislation that would prevent Obama from using executive action to enact an immigration reform that would likely permit nearly 5 million illegal immigrants to live and work legally in the United States.
On Wednesday, Fox News obtained draft proposals from a federal agency outlining a 10-part immigration overhaul, in which the president plans to use an executive order to implement the reforms without the consent of Congress as early as next Friday.
With building pressure from immigration advocates and Congressional Democrats, the president has indicated for months that he would use an executive order to enact the reform, which would suspend deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, if Congress is not able to pass its own reform law.
On Thursday, 50 House Republicans signed onto a letter saying that they believe Congress should act to limit Obama's ability to act alone on immigration reform by adding a provision limiting executive action to the government funding legislation for fiscal year 2015, which must pass by Dec. 11 in order to keep federal agencies operating and prevent another government shutdown like the one in 2013.
"President Obama has spoken publicly and privately about his intentions to use executive action to create these work permits for those who are here illegally. This would be in direct violation of U.S. law," the letter said. "As you know, the Congress has the power of the purse and should use it as a tool to prevent the president from implementing policies that are contrary to our laws and the desire of the American people."
The letter, which was organized by Rep. Matt Salmons, R-Ariz., asks House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., and ranking member Rep. Nita Lowely, D-N.Y., to attach such a provision to the spending legislation.
"This is an opportunity for everybody to come together and speak clearly and forcefully that doing this unconstitutional act would be a mistake, and you do it, there won't be funding for it," Salmon told Fox News. "Members are going to decide for themselves whether or not it is something they want to fall on the sword over."
Although the letter was directed at Rogers, Rogers told the Wall Street Journal that it would be unreasonable to expect the president to sign the spending legislation with the immigration provision in it and it could very well lead to another shutdown.
"I don't want a shutdown," Rogers said. "You should not take a hostage that you can't shoot."
Ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said that the provision should be included in the spending bill to show that Congress is flexing its constitutionally-granted "power of the purse" muscles saying that "Congress should not fund any activity that it thinks is not worthy of funding."
Although over 50 House Republicans signed onto the letter and a few Senate Republicans agree with it, GOP leadership does not want another government shutdown.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has indicated that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said that he does not want to see a government shutdown even if that means passing the spending bill without the immigration provision.
Although Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who was reelected majority leader by Republican senators on Thursday, feels that Obama using executive action on immigration would "poison the well," he is also cautious about a possible battle with the funding legislation. He explicitly promised in his first post-election speech that there will be no government shutdown.
McConnell said in his speech that the American people would like to see both parties work together in the new Congress, and Obama acting alone on immigration would be a big "mistake."
"There's a lot both parties can accomplish together over the next couple years. I hope that happens. I'm optimistic. But working together requires trust," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "I think President Obama has a duty to help build the trust we all need to move forward together, not to double-down on old ways of doing business. That's why I think moving forward with unilateral action on immigration he's planned would be a big mistake."
Among the 10 parts included in the drafts of Obama's potential action on immigration, one would expand "deferred action" deportation reprieve to include illegal immigrants who came into the U.S. as children and illegal immigrants who are parents of American citizens or other legal permanent residents. The action would also allow these immigrants to work and would give them official government Identification.
Obama's basis for using the executive action is likely to be that the federal government does not have the resources to deport all 11 million immigrants that are now in the country illegally. The New York Times reported that up to 5 million illegal immigrants could be protected by the action.