- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2014

The White House signaled Monday that President Obama will veto any bill Congress sends him that would undo his temporary amnesty, setting up a potential fight over homeland security spending heading into next year.

Congressional Republicans are expected to make a final decision this week on whether to use the spending bills to push back against Mr. Obama’s unilateral legalization of as many as 5 million illegal immigrants, but as of Monday they were still struggling with options. The House GOP has a meeting slated for Tuesday morning to debate its plans.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, meanwhile, will tell the House Tuesday that the president sees his moves as a “first step toward reform” rather than as the final answer for millions of illegal immigrants.

And Mr. Johnson, in prepared testimony, said granting tentative legal status to illegal immigrants with children in the country legally only recognizes the situation already in place, under which his department had already decided not to deport those parents.

“Many of these individuals have committed no crimes and are not enforcement priorities,” he says. “It is time that we acknowledge this as a matter of official policy and encourage eligible individuals to come out of the shadows, submit to criminal and national security background checks and be held accountable.”

Mr. Johnson’s testimony to the House Committee on Homeland Security will be the first time the administration has provided more detail about its plans, which remain sketchy — though the White House has said it expects nearly 5 million illegal immigrants to be eligible for the three-year amnesty from deportation.

His testimony, however, is only likely to inflame opposition to the president’s moves.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican, said what the president did “is unconstitutional and a threat to our democracy,” and said it risks a new round of illegal immigration.

“We will see a wave of illegal immigration because of the president’s actions, and in no way is the Department of Homeland Security prepared to handle such a surge,” he said.

Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee will hear from lawyers debating the legality of Mr. Obama’s actions.

The president did not use executive orders to take action, but instead directed Mr. Johnson to use his discretion to set priorities. The administration argues the power to grant temporary amnesty stems from that discretion, and the power to grant work permits to those given amnesty is part of U.S. law.

Lawyers have come down on both sides of the legality question, though it’s questionable whether anyone will have standing to challenge the president’s moves in federal courts.

That would leave Congress with few options other than to use its power of the purse to halt funding for Mr. Obama’s moves.

On Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said any bill that does try to stop the president would draw a veto. He also doubted congressional Republicans would pursue the matter to the point of a stalemate between Mr. Obama and Congress, which could result in a government shutdown.

“I actually don’t believe that members of Congress — certainly, a majority of members of Congress — are going to be willing to go along with an effort to shut down the government in protest over the president’s executive actions on immigration,” Mr. Earnest said.

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