While it may be little consolation to conservatives, House Republicans announced their intention Wednesday to vote on an amendment — in January, when the new Congress is sworn in — that would block the president's executive action on immigration.
Rules Chairman Pete Sessions said during a panel hearing on the "cromnibus" Wednesday that Republicans plan to bring up legislation similar to an amendment offered by Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina that would prohibit the president from carrying out his immigration action. "Mr. Mulvaney has given us an amendment that works perfectly well," Sessions said, saying he will "guarantee" that the Rules Committee, "in the new Congress, in the first two weeks," would have a meeting to put that legislation on the House floor.
Sessions said he believed those in the country posed a threat to national security, and that the "rule of law" must be upheld. But he made it clear that the Rules Committee did not intend to have a fight over the president's executive action in the cromnibus, thus effectively saying the amendment would not be made in order.
GOP leadership is trying to present the argument that the best chance for success is after the new Congress is sworn in. "We should not put a government shutdown on the table when Republicans have minimal leverage to change this law, particularly when Republican control of the Senate is a month away," Sessions said.
While that argument won't quiet every GOP detractor who wants to immediately block the president, it is true that Republicans will have an enhanced ability to get those sorts of pieces of legislation to the president's desk once the new Congress is sworn in — and making President Barack Obama veto those bills could fire up the GOP base in advance of the 2016 elections.
According to aides, Sessions has been fighting behind closed doors for a more aggressive stance on the immigration action, as he's taken a good deal of heat from conservatives — and conservative media, as he noted Wednesday night — for not doing enough to derail GOP leadership bills that do not block the president's immigration order. "I do not support it," Sessions said of the executive action, "despite what you may read in leading-edge blogs around the country. I have not changed my position that I have held over a number of years."
Aides say, the Texas Republican has sought to use his leverage as Rules chairman to gain commitments from leadership that Republicans will, at the very least, vote to block the immigration action in the new Congress. And Sessions confirmed Wednesday night that he had met with conservatives earlier in the day — members like Tim Huelskamp of Kansas and Mulvaney — to discuss getting a commitment from leadership to bring up the Mulvaney language next Congress.
Sessions got the commitment he's been seeking Wednesday afternoon when members met with GOP leadership to discuss the amendment. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, the No. 2 House Republican who controls the floor schedule, supports bringing the so-called "Mulvaney amendment" back to the Rules Committee for full chamber consideration within the first weeks of the 114th Congress, according to a spokesman.
Such a commitment, however, might not placate conservatives, who note the legislation won't be attached to a must-pass bill like the cromnibus, meaning it stands little chance of ever getting Obama's signature.
But it would be another message from the House to the president that they will work to undo his executive order, and it very well could be attached to future pieces of legislation, aides said. It's just a matter of what Republicans can do in the Senate with only 54 votes.
Regardless, the early commitment from GOP leadership to bring up such a bill will serve as a degree of consolation to conservatives as they consider the $1.1 trillion cromnibus, and it could prove key to getting sufficient Republican support as Democrats grow increasingly discontent with the bill.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.
Related: Boehner Suggests He Won't Cave to Conservatives on 'Cromnibus' Labrador: Shutdown Didn't Hurt GOP, Why Take It Off Table? House GOP Floats Multi-Pronged Approach to Avert Government Shutdown Boehner: ‘House Will Act’ in Response to Obama’s Immigration Orders GOP Still Fuzzy on Strategy to Block Obama’s Immigration Move Roll Call Results Map: Results and District Profiles for Every Seat The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.