The ENFORCE Act, which passed 233 to 181, goes after Obama for alleged overreach. The bill would allow Congress to sue the executive branch for allegedly failing to enforce the law, and it could lead to the dismantling of a key policy protecting some undocumented immigrants.
The move was a far cry from the votes on immigration reform that Democrats want, and stood in stark contrast to the immigration principles put forward by House Republican leadership in January. While those guidelines called for young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children -- often referred to as Dreamers -- to receive eventual citizenship, the bill approved Wednesday could end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy that keeps the same people from being deported.
The Obama administration has used prosecutorial discretion, or the decision to use limited resources to enforce some cases over others, to grant some undocumented immigrants a reprieve, while continuing a high level of deportations more broadly.
House Republicans said passing the bill was necessary because the president had shown an unwillingness to enforce the law and a desire to go around Congress, including through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.
"We have seen a pattern: President Obama circumvents Congress when he doesn't get his way," Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on the House floor in support of the bill. "But the Constitution does not confer upon the president the executive authority to disregard the separation of powers and rewrite acts of Congress based on his policy preferences."
The Obama administration threatened to veto both bills should they come to the president's desk, and White House spokesman Jay Carney criticized them during a press briefing, noting the contrast between the legislation and some Republicans' stated desires to work on immigration reform.
"It is, in my view, in our view, pretty amazing that today House Republicans went in the opposite direction by passing legislation targeting the deferred action for childhood arrivals policy that removed the threat of deportation for young people brought to this country as children, known as Dreamers," he said, adding later, "It doesn't require much to look at what House Republicans are doing today and question whether or not they're serious about moving forward on comprehensive immigration reform."
"Instead of voting to fix our broken immigration system as the Senate did in June, House Republicans today voted to prevent the President from fixing the problems that are within his constitutional authority to solve," Reid said. "These irresponsible Republican bills are dead on arrival in the Senate. I strongly support the President’s decision to protect DREAMers from deportation. Republicans should try solving problems for a change instead of blocking progress for our nation and making life more difficult for the immigrant community."