House Republicans pushed through a bill Thursday to disapprove of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. The measure, introduced by Florida Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, passed largely along party lines, 219-197.
All but three Democrats voted “no,” predictably slamming the GOP for reserving floor time for another bill they called anti-immigrant.
Three of Obama’s biggest GOP critics — Reps. Steve King of Iowa, Raul R. Labrador of Idaho and Paul Gosar of Arizona — voted “present.”
They were sending a message: They would have wholeheartedly endorsed the legislation under ordinary circumstances, except in this case they believed the bill was brought to the floor only to pacify lawmakers like themselves, who don’t want to vote to fund the government past Dec. 11, when current federal spending expires, unless it includes a policy rider explicitly defunding the immigration policy changes.
“I believe in the principle; I also want to make sure this isn’t a cover,” Gosar said after the vote.
“The language is okay,” Labrador explained in a separate interview, “but as a standalone bill, it was a meaningless action.”
Ultimately, the bill created an odd dynamic between a certain contingent of the GOP conference — known informally as the “Hell No” Caucus for its push-back against leadership — and one of its own, Yoho.
Under normal circumstances, the “Hell No” lawmakers would be thrilled that their leaders would seize upon a bill introduced by a member in their circle, as Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and his lieutenants are generally disinclined to reward rank-and-file members who don’t always play well with the team.
Instead of slapping Yoho on the back, they decried the bill as a “show vote” that never stood a chance of advancing in the Senate, let alone surviving a veto threat in the White House. Heritage Action for America declined to give or take away points on members’ scorecards for the Yoho bill since, it said, it was “purely symbolic.” Republicans on and off Capitol Hill scoffed at leadership’s decision to change the title of the legislation as originally introduced, from “Executive Amnesty Prevention Act” to “Preventing Executive Overreach on Immigration.”
Even Republicans who voted in favor of Yoho’s bill suggested they felt pandered to. Many said that their support for the the legislation, which they called “common sense,” would not automatically translate into a “yes” vote for the current framework being shopped by GOP leadership to avert a government shutdown: A bill to fund all federal operations through September but sunset funding for the Department of Homeland Security, the agency doing the bulk of the executive action implementations, until mid-February.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call in advance of floor debate on his bill, Yoho said he counted himself among those who weren’t interested in voting for the so-called cromnibus to fund the government unless it “strips out everything [Obama’s] doing to process work visas.” He added that Boehner and other party leaders did not approach him to discuss the terms of bringing up his bill.
Yoho also fought back against more cynical impressions of the timing of his bill’s consideration.
“What [leadership] chose to do with it, there’s a lot of conjectures about why they’re doing this and that,” Yoho said. “I don’t know why they’re doing that. It’s a good bill, it stands on its own merit and what we have to do is stop this president from going forward because his plan is not going to help the immigration issue; in fact, it’s going to make it worse.
“The media says, ‘Well, it’s just a symbolic bill because it’s not gonna go anywhere,” he continued, “and I got to thinking, ‘You know what? Let’s make it a symbolic bill. Let’s make it a symbol of standing up to the Constitution.'”
The final vote breakdown validated Yoho. In a separate interview, he summed up the outcome: “You are either allowing the president to continue a non-constitutional act, or you’re trying to block it. It’s as simple as that.”
Matt Fuller contributed to this report.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of votes needed to reach a majority.
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