The House Republican caucus wants to sue President Barack Obama.
They say he isn’t living up to his constitutional obligations on a range of issues—and in particular, that he’s not faithfully executing immigration laws. They cite his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, put into place by executive order in 2012, which halted deportations of people who were brought to this country as children—the so-called “dreamers.” There are roughly 1.1 million of them, according to the best estimates.
To gut that measure, along with parts of the Affordable Care Act and a grab bag of other administration policies, House Republicans crafted and passed what they are calling the “ENFORCE the Law” Act. It would create what amounts to a legal shortcut. House members could file a lawsuit against the president, and it would go directly to three-judge panel of a federal district court—and from there, could be appealed straight to the Supreme Court.
The measure is unlikely to become law, since Senate leaders have declared it dead on arrival. Even if they hadn’t, it might not survive a court challenge: Experts say it openly tampers with the constitution.
Still, the vote for ENFORCE is a statement, and one that directly violates the immigration principles Republicans outlined in January. At the time, the leadership professed support for a pathway to “legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children through no fault of their own, those who know no other place as home.” But that was nearly two months ago—and ENFORCE represents the House’s first vote of the year on immigration.
It makes the vote Democrats have been demanding, on the reform bill that passed the Senate last year, seem a lot less likely. (And it’s not like prospects were good in the first place.) “It doesn't require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today and question whether or not they're serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday. That’s a departure from statements that both the president and House Speaker John Boehner have made this winter, insisting legislative reform still stands a chance. Last month, Carney called a meeting about immigration between the two men “constructive”; Boehner called it “healthy.”
Republicans may have been trying to underscore a message with the vote: that Obama should not even consider addressing deportations with executive authority, as he did with DACA, and as immigrant-rights groups are demanding he do again. “If he stopped deporting people who are clearly here illegally, then I think any chance of immigration reform is dead," Senator Lindsey Graham warned in February. But as the prospects for immigration reform dim, Obama may wonder why he’s waiting for the House to meet him partway.