The House of Representatives issued another largely symbolic rebuke to President Barack Obama’s agenda Thursday, voting to roll back his immigration executive order that could help up to 4.1 million people avoid deportation. The measure narrowly passed with a vote of 219 to 197.
Seven Republicans from districts with large number of Latinos voted against it while three Democrats from more red districts supported the measure.
“The president thumbed his nose at the American people with his actions on immigration. The House will make clear today that we are rejecting his unilateral actions,” House Speaker John Boehner said ahead of the vote.
Democratic leaders in the Senate, still in control until a new congress convenes in January, support the president’s executive action and have said they have no intention of bringing the House bill up for a vote.
Even though it won’t reach his desk, President Obama issued a veto threat. “The bill’s objective is clearly to nullify and block implementation of these executive actions, which would have devastating consequences. It would lead to the separation of families and prevent additional DREAMers from fully contributing to American life,” the administration released in lengthy, strongly-worded statement.
Knowing that the measure won’t go anywhere, House Speaker John Boehner allowed a vote on the bill to appease members of his caucus who are furious over the president’s action, which some say is unconstitutional.
“The president thinks he can just sit in the Oval Office and make up his own laws,” Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalice, the third highest ranking Republican in the House said on the House floor before the vote. “I bring this legislation forward today so we can get back to the rule of law.”
House Republicans have registered their discontent over President Obama’s actions before, most notably more than fifty votes to overturn the Affordable Care Act as well as filing a lawsuit against him for his executive actions surrounding the health care law.
The bill was sponsored by Ted Yoho, R-Florida, one of the most conservative members of Congress who often bucks Republican leadership, especially when he did not vote for House Speaker John Boehner for Speaker of the House in 2013.
But Texas firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz dismissed the tactic, calling it a “show vote” and urged Republican leadership to use “every tool at our disposal,” including blocking government funding.
By allowing Republicans to vent their frustration and show their supporters that they disagree with the president, this vote eases the threat of a government shutdown. The measure is not tied to a government funding bill that must pass before federal funding runs out December 11.
Still, House Republicans’ response to immigration is not yet complete. They are still considering limiting the length of funding for the federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration, until February or March so that Republicans will have more bargaining power with a Republican majority in the Senate.
In January, the stakes grow higher on immigration as Republicans take control of both houses of congress. House Republicans are unlikely to drop their frustration with Obama’s use of executive action but the Senate will have a much larger voice in any eventual action as the GOP will be in control. The president, of course, will retain his veto pen.
- NBC's Alex Moe contributed to this story.