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GOP Hopes To Use Spending Bill As Leverage Against Immigration Action


And we begin this hour on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress are planning to leave town for the holidays by the end of next week. Before they do, there's a spending bill that needs to pass, one that will keep the government open beyond December 11. Many Republicans want to use that bill as leverage against the president's executive action on immigration. The question is how will they do that without shutting down the government? NPR's Ailsa Chang is with us now with some possible answers. Hey there, Ailsa.


CORNISH: So House Republicans gathered for a closed-door meeting this morning to discuss some strategies. What approaches are they coalescing around?

CHANG: Well, what most of them are coalescing around right now is to not shut down the government. The leadership is not interested in doing that. Some of the Republican members I talked to said House Speaker John Boehner urged again at this morning's meeting for everyone to act responsibly. But how do you act responsibly and still fight the president? That's the question. Boehner says they're still trying to figure that one out.


CONGRESSMAN JOHN BOEHNER: Frankly, we have limited options and limited abilities to deal with it directly. But that's why we're continuing to talk to our members. We've not made decisions about how we're going to proceed, but we are in fact going to proceed.

CHANG: So one way to proceed that's gathering popularity is going at this through a piece of legislation with a funny name - a cromnibus.

CORNISH: A cromnibus - OK, Frankenstein of a word. Please explain the root of it.

CHANG: OK, cromnibus, yes, it's the word of the week. And the joke up here is everyone keeps comparing it to the cronut because it just sounds like the same word, but this is way less tasty and way more boring. A cromnibus is a combination, long-term omnibus appropriations bill and a short-term continuing resolution - or CR. And this is how it would work. The omnibus part would fund the entire government through next September, except for the Department of Homeland Security. That's the department responsible for implementing the president's executive action. DHS would be funded by the CR, which would run out sometime next March. The rationale is you avoid a government shutdown this way. And then by March, when that short-term immigration funding runs out, Republicans will be in charge of both the House and Senate. And then they may have other options to deal with the president.

CORNISH: What if they wait till March? What are those options?

CHANG: No one has a good answer for that right now. Defunding the agency that carries out the executive action doesn't work through the appropriations process because that agency is largely funded by user fees. Some lawmakers are talking about stalling nominations. Remember, we have some high-profile nominees coming through the pipeline next year for attorney general and for secretary of defense. But before we even get to next March, let's see if this cromnibus even passes next week. Many of the more conservative House members say they're not voting for it because it doesn't do enough. They want something that really jams up the president now, some kind of legislation that would effectively render null and void his executive action.

CORNISH: Now, what legislation are they proposing that could do that?

CHANG: Well, Ted Yoho of a Florida is introducing a measure that basically amounts to a disapproval resolution. It simply states that the president lacks the authority to defer deportations. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid already said today he will not bring up that bill in the Senate even if it passes the House. So the measure is basically symbolic. They're right back where they started. And that's why some lawmakers are saying the only viable option is to take the president to court - to file a lawsuit against the administration, challenging the constitutionality of the executive action.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ailsa Chang. Ailsa, thanks so much.

CHANG: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.