Yes, Congress Can Block Obama’s Amnesty
Some have asserted lawmakers have “no fiscal leverage” over USCIS, the agency that will be tasked with carrying out a key plank of President Obama’s executive amnesty program. The New York Times put it this way last week:
“Officials of the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee have concluded that the government agency most responsible for implementing any new executive order — the Citizenship and Immigration Services — would not be hindered if government funds are cut off; it operates entirely on revenue it generates through immigration applications.”
Ironically, a spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee later acknowledged “a rider on the executive order” can be attached to a funding bill. Two additional data points suggest Congress can act to block Obama’s executive actions: 1) President Obama has signed into law (Public Law No: 113-76) congressional restrictions on the use of user fee funded accounts within the Department of Homeland Security; and 2) 25 of the 28 Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee – including the chairman and every cardinal – voted (2014 House Vote #479) to deny “Federal funding or resources” for an expansion of Obama’s executive amnesty plan.
Today, Breitbart reported that the Congressional Research Service found “Congress can in fact block funding for President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty order.” Below is an excerpt of that report:
In light of Congress’s constitutional power over the purse, the Supreme Court has recognized that “Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes.” Where Congress has done so, “an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities.” Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specific purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes.
A fee-funded agency or activity typically refers to one in which the amounts appropriated by Congress for that agency or activity are derived from fees collected from some external source. Importantly, amounts received as fees by federal agencies must still be appropriated by Congress to that agency in order to be available for obligation or expenditure by the agency. In some cases, this appropriation is provided through the annual appropriations process. In other instances, it is an appropriation that has been enacted independently of the annual appropriations process (such as a permanent appropriation in an authorizing act). In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress on the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds.