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As Obama Weighs Executive Action on Immigration, Is Government Shutdown Possible? (Video)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

While House Republicans consider how to fund the government beyond December and how to stop President Barack Obama’s expected executive action on immigration, there are two words that have suddenly, unexpectedly re-entered the GOP lexicon: government shutdown.  

Arizona Republican Rep. Matt Salmon has penned a letter , with more than 50 Republican co-signers, to House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky and ranking Democrat Nita M. Lowey of New York asking them to include a rider on a bill to fund the government — either an omnibus or another continuing resolution — that would block funds for the purpose of implementing any executive action on immigration.

Putting in a rider like that could cause an appropriations standoff. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., has said such language would be a “deal-breaker” for her, and even if a bill could get past the Senate, Obama would likely veto it.  

Democrats know Republicans don’t want a government shutdown.  

“Well, we’re not going to shut down the government,” Rogers said Thursday. “So there’s no use talking about using that as a threat. We’ve been down that road before.”  

As Republicans consider whether they’ll do an omnibus, which would incorporate already-passed appropriations bills, or another short-term continuing resolution, which would be used to retain the threat of a government shutdown, Rogers thought a CR was an empty threat.  

“There’s really no reason to do a CR, if that’s the purpose of it is to threaten a shutdown, to dare him to issue his executive decree,” Rogers told reporters. “Consequently, an omnibus to get this year out of the way so we can start fresh in January is really the way to go.”  

Asked if he thought Republicans should address an executive action on immigration retroactively instead of preemptively, Rogers said there are any number of ways to “tackle” the question.  

“There could even be a separate bill, separate from the omnibus, dealing with that subject,” he said.  

Pressed if Republicans would be complicit in the president’s immigration action if they didn’t move to block it, Rogers seemed to shrug the question off.  

“Well, you know, the courts might have a say in this. You could retroactively go after it,” he said, admitting it would be more difficult to stop after the action went into effect rather than before.  

But it’s that line of reason that has Republicans such as Salmon up in arms.  

“Why would we wait?” Salmon asked Thursday morning. “Let’s just do our job, our responsibility.”  

Salmon agreed the prospect of a shutdown was making Republicans “really jittery,” but he didn’t seem to think giving in to the president’s demands was a wise idea either.  

“Is this going to be a blueprint for the next two years?” Salmon asked. “That every time the president flexes his muscles and says, you know, ‘I’m not going to accept that and if you force that on me, then I’ll veto it and shut the government down and blame it on you.’ Then why even fight the fight? What are we here for?”  

Salmon said nobody wants a shutdown, but he also suggested that some members were afraid of angering GOP leadership.  

“Now is the time of jockeying for committee assignments and everything,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to be as nice as they can be.”  

As for Salmon, he didn’t think leadership had much leverage over him. “What are they going to do, put me on the broom closet committee?”  

Ultimately, however, the Arizona Republican knows the fight is over whether risking a government shutdown is worth trying to block an executive action that Republicans may not be able to block anyway.  

“Look: I guess that’s a strategic question that you’re going to have to ask everybody,” Salmon said. “I personally believe that doing our job is worth it. And risking my job to do the right thing is worth it.”  

Emma Dumain and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.

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