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Roby: What ‘defunding amnesty’ really means and how we get there

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)
Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2)

Remember the “Defund ObamaCare” strategy of Fall 2013? There were two basic reasons it didn’t work:

1. Democrats held the Majority in the Senate;
2. The threat of shutting down the entire government allowed the other side to distract attention away from the failures of ObamaCare.

This year, with a funding battle over immigration before us, Congress sought to remedy both problems by:

1. Delaying the fight just three weeks until Republicans control the Senate; and
2. Taking an entire government shutdown off the table to focus solely on the issue of executive amnesty.

So, this past week, Congress passed an Appropriations plan that funds 11 of the 12 government divisions through the remainder of Fiscal Year 2015. The exception is Homeland Security, which is where immigration enforcement funding is contained. The plan includes a temporary Continuing Resolution for Homeland Security, delaying the issue slightly so that Congress can utilize the “power of the purse” to rein in President Obama’s immigration actions in three weeks when Republicans take the Majority in the Senate.

The strategy of combining a Continuing Resolution with an Omnibus Appropriations bill was coined “CR-Omnibus.” It is the best approach to defeating executive amnesty.

Some have charged that the proposal somehow “funds” President Obama’s executive amnesty plans because it temporarily continues funding for Homeland Security at current levels. That is incorrect, as evidenced by the calls of some of the most outspoken amnesty opponents for a Continuing Resolution that temporarily funds ALL areas of government, including Homeland Security.

The CR-Omnibus we passed continued funding for immigration enforcement agencies the exact same way a full-government Continuing Resolution would have. So, if a Continuing Resolution for all of government does not “fund” amnesty, then how does a Continuing Resolution for only Homeland Security?

The answer is, of course, it doesn’t.

The truth is the Appropriations plan does not “fund” amnesty. It funds Homeland Security at the same levels as the alternative, full government Continuing Resolution would have. The only difference is we locked in full-year spending reforms in other aspects of the government and took the possibility of a government shutdown off the table for January.
Roby graphic
Part of the problem here is the way we talk about legislation. Rhetoric can confuse the issue. For instance, look through all the appropriations bills and you won’t find money appropriated for “amnesty” like some are suggesting. There is no line item for “Obama’s Amnesty Program.” It’s just not there.

What “defunding amnesty” really means is attaching policy riders to an Appropriations bill that specifically prohibit particular actions, or adding a provision saying that under no circumstances can the administration find any little extra pot of money in the DHS budget to, for example, pay for licenses and permits needed to fulfill Obama’s order. Nearly every Republican I know wants those policy riders.

But, just like with ObamaCare in 2013, the reality is “defund” policy riders we want will not pass with a Democratic Senate. It is simply misleading for any politician to suggest they would.

No one really disputes that going down the “defund” path before we have a Senate Majority would result in little more than show votes of solidarity for Republicans and then a temporary Continuing Resolution funding the entire government at status quo levels. That would earn Republicans a “moral victory” in which we could pat each other on the back for fighting the good fight, but ultimately lose the battle – exactly what happened with the ObamaCare funding fight last October.

I don’t want a “moral victory” on defeating amnesty. I want a real victory, and the best way to get one is with a Republican Senate Majority.

So, in January, President Obama is going to face a choice: shut down just the Department of Homeland Security or accept a limit on his power. Given the way the American public feels about his reckless immigration policies and our ability to then focus their attention on this single issue, I like our chances. That is the best strategy for defeating executive amnesty.

Beyond immigration, there are many other good aspects of the Appropriations plan. Among them:

– Bringing the federal deficit to half what it was in 2010;
– Slashing funding for the IRS by $345 million;
– Bringing total IRS cuts to $1 billion since 2010;
– Slashing funding for the EPA, meaning a total reduction of 21 percent since 2010;
– Bringing EPA staffing down to its lowest level since the Reagan Era;
– Preventing federal authorities from regulating farm ponds and irrigation ditches under the Clean Water Act;
– Instilling transparency and accountability for OSHA enforcement activities;
– Providing critical military funding, including specific projects that are Alabama-based, including:
o new Lakota Helicopters to enhance the aviation training mission at Fort Rucker; and
o the Navy’s Mobile-built Littoral Combat Ship and Joint-High Speed Vessel.


Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives