A controversial resolution involving the legal challenge against President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration is slated to go up for a vote in the Republican-led U.S. House Thursday afternoon.
Under the resolution, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI,1) would have the power to file a Supreme Court amicus brief on behalf of his chamber opposing Obama's immigration orders. Ryan, who filed the resolution Monday, says the issue boils down to defending Article I of the Constitution, which defines the legislative branch's powers.
But House Democrats say the Republican effort is just a "political stunt."
"The vote today is a political stunt disguised as a legal brief, because the Republican majority sees a crass political opportunity to stand with the anti-immigration wing of their party," U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) said on a morning conference call. "They keep saying, 'Well [GOP presidential frontrunner Donald] Trump doesn't represent us. He doesn't rep our views. He doesn't represent our values,' and now they want to know where Trump gets all his anti-immigrant, xenophobic ideas from. Try the House of Representatives."
Signed in November, Obama's executive orders on immigration seek to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative and create a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. Texas is among a group of 26 mostly Republican-run states challenging the immigration orders, which have been on hold as the issue works its way through the courts.
Ryan's resolution would give the U.S. House authorization to file an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court against Obama's immigration orders, which are being challenged in the United States vs. Texas case. Supreme Court justices are expected to hear the case this spring.
Last week, House and Senate Democrats filed their own amicus brief with the nation's high court in support of Obama's executive actions on immigration.
Dozens of immigrant and labor groups, including SEIU*, have also urged Congress to reject the resolution, asking House lawmakers in a letter this week to "support President Obama's executive actions so that people with strong ties to our nation can continue to be part of their children's lives, our communities and this country."
"The big difference between the brief that 186 House Democrats and 39 Senate Democrats filed last week, and what now Speaker Ryan is intending to force the House to vote on, is that the Republican brief will inject the House of Representatives in its official capacity into the litigation in U.S. v. Texas, and it will use taxpayer dollars to do so," said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA-34).
"It seems these days that Republicans in Congress spend more time and taxpayer money filing partisan lawsuits and legal briefs than working to pass the country's must-do legislation, like the budget or a jobs bill or even, of course, commonsense immigration reform," he added.
Ryan spoke about the resolution at a press conference earlier this week, saying the amicus brief is aimed at "defend[ing] our Article One powers."
"If we're going to maintain the founding principle of being a self-governing people, if we're going to maintain the founding principle of government by consent of the governed, the legislative branch of government needs to be the one writing the laws, not the executive branch," he said.
"We're going to defend Article One, because we believe passionately in the principle of being a self-governing people, of government by consent of the governed, of putting back in the box this growing fourth branch of government that is becoming more and more and more unaccountable to the people of this country," Ryan added. "By restoring the separation of powers, we can reclaim these ideals."
Democrats, meanwhile, are confident the law is on the president's side.
"We think that President Obama not only is standing on very strong footing, but that he has made use of executive action less than some of these presidents have in the past," Becerra said. "And so many of us feel very confident that the Supreme Court, even while it's shorthanded with eight justices, can certainly rule in favor of the executive branch in this case, and I could easily see a ruling moving in the direction of the president by a 6-2 vote, 5-3 vote."
Gutierrez slammed House Republicans for "stoking anti-immigrant fears and mass deportation fantasies."
"The Republicans are not leading. They're not calling for calmer rhetoric, let alone more rational policies," the congressman said. "They're playing politics with immigrants, plain and simple. If Republicans are so secure in the validity of their argument, they should write the brief and submit it to the Supreme Court, just as 225 Democrats did last week."
Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (D-CA,38) was also on the call.
"What I find is that the Latino community is being used for political purposes. We're being demonized. We're being marginalized, and we see a frightening level of hateful rhetoric and vile hate speech aimed at our community, and nobody is standing up within the Republican Party to say, 'This is unacceptable,'" she said. "I find it very ironic that on St. Patrick's Day, a day that has come in the United States to symbolize a marker of the contributions of Irish immigrants, we are going to be having this vote on the floor soon."
UPDATE (11:45 p.m.): Speaker Paul Ryan's resolution passed the House 234-186.
UPDATE (11:57 p.m.): As expected, no Democrats voted in support of the Republican-backed resolution. Five Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure, including Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL,10) from the Illinois Congressional Delegation. Find the roll call here.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.