WASHINGTON - Overriding objections from some conservative Republicans, US House Speaker John Boehner vowed on Thursday to plow ahead with a spending bill that averts a government shutdown while keeping some budget "leverage" over President Barack Obama's immigration order.
Boehner said he expected the bill, which provides full funding for all government agencies except the Department of Homeland Security through September 2015, to pass next week with some votes from Democrats, just ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline.
The department, which controls the agencies that would implement Obama's plan to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the United States, would get only a short-term funding extension, likely until sometime in February, Republican lawmakers said.
At that time, Republicans will be in a better position to restrict spending on immigration-related items since they take control of the Senate and expand their majority in the House of Representatives in the new year following the November midterm elections.
"We think this is the most practical way to fight the president's action," Boehner told a news conference. "And we listened to our members."
Obama's plan, announced last month as an executive order, would let up to 4.7 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States stay without threat of deportation. Republicans have criticised it as an overreach of powers that amounts to an amnesty for lawbreakers.
The House passed a largely symbolic measure on Thursday that effectively declares Obama's action illegal. It passed 219-197 on a mostly party-line vote, but Democrats who still control the Senate have no plans to consider it and the White House has promised a veto.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will support the funding bill as long as it does not include an explicit ban on spending for Obama's immigration plan, a senior Democratic aide said.
A small but vocal group of House and Senate conservatives are calling for such a ban as part of a tougher Republican stance against the immigration order, although it raises the threat of a government shutdown.
Representative Matt Salmon, an Arizona conservative who is a leading proponent of that strategy, said he was disappointed in Boehner's spending plan but resigned to its passage.
"My assumption is that the fix is in and they don't need us," he said, adding that Boehner had backed down from his vow to fight Obama "tooth and nail" on the immigration order.
Several Republican lawmakers said Boehner has sufficient support within his party to pass the funding bill with Democratic help while facing little risk of a rebellion in January when he seeks another term as Speaker.
Boehner sidestepped questions about what actions Republicans will take next February when DHS funding needs an extension.
"There are a lot of options on the table," he said. "But I do know this: come January, we'll have the Republican House and Republican Senate, and we'll be in a stronger position to take action."