Biden: Tying immigration to US budget would be mistake

AFP , Tuesday 2 Dec 2014

Joe Biden
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the media during a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 (Photo: AP)

US Republicans would be making a "mistake" if they use last-minute budget negotiations this month as leverage against the White House's controversial immigration order, Vice President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday.

US lawmakers must strike a spending deal by December 11 in order to avoid a government shutdown, which would begin the following day if Congress does not act.

Some conservative House Republicans are urging party leaders to put up a fight over the next nine days by finding ways to rein in President Barack Obama's recent executive order shielding up to five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

But Biden warned against tactics that could cause another potentially devastating government shutdown.

"I think that's a mistake for the country," Biden told AFP in the US Capitol.

The House of Representatives is likely to initiate the legislation to keep government running, and Congress could end up passing what is known as a continuing resolution that funds government for a few months at current levels.

House Speaker John Boehner suggested that his caucus would not force a shutdown over immigration this month, but act on the issue once Republicans gain control of the Senate in January.

"Frankly we have limited options and limited ability to deal with it directly, but that's why we're continuing to talk to our members," Boehner said.

"We've not made decisions about how we're going to proceed, but we are, in fact, going to proceed."

Some House conservatives signaled they were ready to avoid a December showdown but take action in the new year, when the Senate and House are under Republican control.

"We should send the Senate a bill that funds the government but also... restricts what the president did in his executive order," Republican congressman Jim Jordan told reporters.

"And then if (Democratic Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid and the Senate don't pass that, then OK, let's do something very short-term and wait for the majority in the Senate to change."

In a Tuesday caucus meeting, Boehner put forward a two-step plan to fund government but also criticize Obama's immigration action, The Hill website reported.

The House could first opt for a largely symbolic bill that would stress that the executive branch has no authority to delay deportations, the newspaper said.

It could then pass an "omnibus" spending package that funds most of government through September 2015, along with a shorter-term measure funding the agency that oversees immigration-related services, allowing the new Congress to tackle the issue early next year.

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