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Boehner Plans to Authorize House Suit Against Obama Over Immigration

House Republican leaders are finalizing a plan that would authorize the chamber to take legal actions against President Barack Obama over his executive actions on immigration.

Speaker John A. Boehner pitched the plan to GOP lawmakers during a closed-door meeting Tuesday, describing a resolution that would authorize the House to take a variety of legal actions, which could include a formal lawsuit.

“We are finalizing a plan to authorize litigation on this issue — one we believe gives us the best chance of success,” the Ohio Republican said, according to a source in the room.

Leaders have not finalized a course of action, but the authorization language would allow the House to take steps that could include filing a fresh lawsuit against the president or joining a case already in front of federal district court from two dozen states. That suit alleges that Obama overstepped his constitutional authority in finalizing his November 2014 actions, which seek to defer the deportation of millions of certain non-violent immigrants.

Drew Hammill, spokesman for Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, called the news “an embarrassing admission of failure.”

“Republicans’ radical anti-immigrant legislation is dead on arrival. Once again, House Republicans are crawling to the courts to relieve them of their responsibility to govern,” he said in a written statement.

House Republicans are also looking to continue chipping away at the executive actions legislatively. However, their options are proving to be limited since they do not have veto-proof majorities in both chambers of Congress.

The House adopted a handful of GOP amendments to a wrapup spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security (HR 240) that would turn back the November orders, as well as other executive actions stretching as far back as 2011. Those amendments, however, are ultimately expected to be stripped out in the Senate. House leaders pulled a border security bill (HR 399) from the floor this week amid growing opposition from conservatives.

So far, the president’s immigration actions have withstood one legal challenge. A federal judge on Dec. 24 threw out a challenge from Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio, saying that the plaintiff could not prove direct harm from the actions and lacked standing.

A House bill authorizing legal actions against the president is similar to the approach Boehner took last summer that paved the way for a lawsuit against the president a few months later alleging that he failed to enforce the 2010 health care law (PL 111-148, PL 111-152).

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he is reluctant to say that the immigration lawsuit will meet the same fate as Republican efforts to sue the Obama administration over implementation of the 2010 healthcare law.

“I don’t want to predict that because that might not help the cause. I’d like to see the cause advance,” he said. But King pointed to his ongoing legal battle to try to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program the Obama administration created in 2012 and to block the Homeland Security Department from prioritizing deportation of certain immigrants while closing deportation cases of others.

“We have been litigating on this since 2011 or ’12, and most members of the conference don’t know that,” he said. “And so we keep litigating, keep legislating, and keep talking to the public, and keep doing all we can.”

Jennifer Scholtes contributed to this report.

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