Sidestepping immigration hardliners, House Republican leaders are moving to make a deal with Democrats to pass a spending bill that would keep the government running past next week.
The emerging strategy follows legislation passed on Dec. 4 by the House declaring President Barack Obama's executive actions to curb deportations "null and void." That legislation wasn't enough for some conservatives, who complained that the only way to stop Obama's actions on immigration would be to forbid them in legislation that must pass if the government is to stay open.
Republican leaders are opposed to that course of action, fearing a government shutdown that they don't want, and plan to rely on Democratic votes to pass a bill to keep the government going.
The spending bill would pay for most government agencies for a year, while extending the Homeland Security Department only for a few months. Homeland Security includes the immigration agencies that would carry out Obama's executive actions, so the approach would allow Republicans to revisit them early next year, once they have control of the Senate and a bigger majority in the House.
"We think this is the most practical way to fight the president's action," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
Several conservative lawmakers sounded resigned Thursday to being ignored by Boehner, who, with a bigger majority next year, will have more room to maneuver around balky tea party lawmakers.
"My assumption is that the fix is in and they don't need us," said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. "They're going to vote this with a large number of Democrats."
The omnibus spending bill would cover the approximately one-third of the budget dedicated to day-to-day operations of Cabinet agencies. There's slightly more than $1 trillion for the Pentagon and domestic agencies plus more than $70 billion to tackle overseas military operations in Afghanistan and to fight Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. Obama appeared likely to get most of his $6.2 billion request for fighting Ebola at home and in Africa but not his requests for infrastructure money.
Most of the money issues are largely worked out, House Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said. But many so-called policy riders, on environmental regulations, long-haul trucker hours, labor relations and more, are unresolved.
GOP Rep. Harold Rogers of Kentucky, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, hopes to achieve the framework of a deal with Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, by the end of Friday and release it Monday.
"Until we see the bill, there's no way you can say you support it or not," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said.
The bill on deportations, which passed 219-197, put the House on record against Obama's actions granting work permits to more than 4 million immigrants in the country illegally. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., was among those who wanted more direct action to block what the president is doing.
"Having said we're going to do everything we can to stop this - and then to do nothing to stop it - really hurts," he said.