WASHINGTON — In a broad assault on one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities, Republicans pushed legislation toward House passage Wednesday that would overturn his immigration policies and remove protections for immigrants brought illegally to the country as kids.
Despite a White House veto threat, Republicans were poised to attach language blocking Obama's immigration initiatives to legislation providing nearly $40 billion to finance the Homeland Security Department through the rest of the budget year.
Republicans said Obama's executive actions on immigration were an unconstitutional overreach that must be stopped.
"If in the future a Republican president does the same thing I will be the first to be here with you to stand against that to fight back," said Rep. Mick Mulvancy, R-S.C. "Law is not made at the White House."
Rep. Luis Guiterrez, D-Ill., accused Republicans of "viciousness" for trying to make it easier to deport immigrant brought to the U.S. as children. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., called the GOP effort "a political vendetta," adding, "It's a reprehensible, reckless tactic which will compromise, has already compromised, the full and effective functioning of our Homeland Security Department" at a time of heightened security risks.
Republicans were voting on one amendment to undo executive actions Obama announced in November that provided temporary deportation relief to some 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. Another amendment would delete Obama's 2012 policy that's granted work permits and stays of deportation to more than 600,000 immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as kids.
The changes Obama announced in November especially enraged the GOP because they came not long after Republicans swept the midterm elections, taking control of the Senate and increasing their majority in the House. Republicans pledged then to revisit the issue once Congress was fully under their control.
But even with Republicans in control of the Senate the bill faces tough chances there, especially because House GOP leaders decided to satisfy demands from conservative members by including a vote to undo the 2012 policy that deals with younger immigrants known as "Dreamers." The amendment, which is opposed by some of the more moderate Republicans in the House, would ultimately expose those young people to deportation.
Republicans are six votes shy of the 60-vote majority needed to advance most legislation in the Senate, and even some Republicans in the Senate have expressed unease with the House GOP approach, especially given the importance of funding the Homeland Security Department in light of the Paris terrorist attacks.
Some House Republicans acknowledged that the Senate was likely to reject their approach, perhaps forcing them in the end to pass a Homeland Security funding bill stripped of controversial provisions on immigration.
"They're not going to pass this bill," Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., said in predicting the Senate outcome.
Homeland Security money expires at the end of February so House leaders have left themselves some weeks to reach the end game.
Immigrant advocates warned Republicans that Wednesday's votes risked alienating Latino voters who will be crucial to the 2016 presidential election.
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Connie Cass contributed to this report.