Conservatives in the U.S. Senate got a powerful weapon on Wednesday in the battle over whether they can pull the rug out from under President Barack Obama’s plan to mainstream millions of illegal immigrants into American life.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Republican’ top budget hawk, has unveiled a Nov. 21 memo from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) explaining that Congress can legally strip funding from America’s immigration enforcement agency – including funds the agency raises on its own through fees it charges Americans and foreigners.
That news will put fuel in the tank of right-wingers who want to paint Obama into a corner when the GOP controls both houses of Congress in January.
Citing ‘Congress’s constitutional power over the purse,’ the CRS – Capitol Hill’s official nonpartisan research arm – instructed Sessions that lawmakers can pick and choose what executive branch agencies can spend money on.
‘An agency is not free simply to disregard’ those orders, the memo read.
Some government agencies are funded by congressional ‘appropriations’ and others are ‘self-funded’ by fees, but the CRS memo indicates that Congress is in the driver’s seat no matter what.
That question had been left hanging in an internecine Republican feud that spilled out into news coverage and the blogosphere in the weeks since the midterm elections.
Sessions and other Senate conservatives argue in favor of ‘de-funding’ U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a subagency of the Homeland Security Department, in order to force an Obama administration retreat from what they term an ‘amnesty’ for more than 5 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
Moderates, led by House Appropriations Committee chair Hal Rogers of Kentucky, insist the gesture would be an empty one since the White House could legally thumb its nose at Congress by self-funding the agency.
USCIS will print and distribute green cards and work authorization cards for the millions of immigrants likely to benefit from Obama’s executive order, announced last week. Those cards and other documents will cost money – arguably bringing in more than the agency needs – even if congressional Republicans try to freeze it out.
SOURCE: DAVID MARTOSKO