TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 26

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A Baltimore all-girls high school robotics team is bucking the trend for women in STEM education.

By Andrew Zaleski in the Baltimore Sun

2. The first Thanksgiving wasn’t a celebration of bounty, but “a refusal to be defeated by what so gravely threatened.” Today, we need the same.

By James Carroll in the Boston Globe

3. Congress — yes, that Congress — is about to pass a vital update to the Freedom of Information Act.

By Jason Leopold at Vice News

4. Discrimination against LGBT people isn’t just a civil rights violation, it’s bad economic policy.

By M. V. Lee Badgett at the New America Foundation

5. The truth is out about Russia. The EU must focus on the Balkans and think about the future.

By Judy Dempsey in RealClearWorld

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Congress

How Will Congress React to Ferguson Decision?

Rand Paul TIME 100
Win McNamee—Getty Images

Capitol Hill's response to the Darren Wilson decision may be limited to empathy

As the fires of unrest smolder in Ferguson, Mo., some members of Congress expressed their solidarity with the protesters of the Michael Brown grand jury verdict sparring police officer Darren Wilson from charges connected to the August 9 shooting.

“I know this [is] hard,” tweeted Democratic Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the civil rights hero, on Monday. “I know this is difficult. Do not succumb to the temptations of violence. There is a more powerful way.”

“Only love can overcome hate,” he added. “Only nonviolence can overcome violence.”

But the official response from Capitol Hill may not amount to much more than empathy, as the Republican leaders who control both chambers of Congress next year appear unlikely to support efforts reigning in police departments from obtaining Pentagon gear like mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles. Such bills aren’t focused on reducing incidents like the Brown shooting but the danger in the aftermath, in which protesters are confronted by a threatened police force with military-grade weapons and technology.

After the Brown shooting, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri led hearings diving into the lack of police training with such weapons and if police departments should have to purchase body cameras before obtaining military equipment. In September, McCaskill announced some of the results of her investigation, finding that over a third of the supposedly “excess” military equipment provided to police departments was barely used, if at all. She also found police departments armed for Iraq-level warfare, with 49 of 50 states having more MRAP vehicles than their state’s National Guard. McCaskill recently told BuzzFeed that she would continue her efforts to investigate how the police are trained, but stopped short of calling to bar the departments from receiving military equipment in the first place.

“We learned we have no oversight and the people that are doing these programs aren’t even talking to one another and there hasn’t been any rhyme or reason to who’s received this equipment, whether or not they’ve been trained, and how they are utilizing it,” she told BuzzFeed. “So we’re now looking more at an oversight function of those issues. I’ve visited with other senators who are interested, including some of my Republican colleagues, and we’re going to try and sit down between now and the first of the year and see if we can come up with some guidelines.”

Her Democratic colleagues in the House appear to be pretty glum about the prospects for reforming how the police obtain Pentagon equipment.

A spokesman for Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson, who plans on reintroducing his bill to limit police militarization next session, sees the effort as “really an education campaign” due to opposition from Republican leadership, according to the Huffington Post. But Democrats are also divided if there should be an outright ban on transfer of this equipment or if there should simply be more stringent requirements and training for officers who will use it.

Some libertarian-minded Republicans have also joined the call to demilitarize the police, including Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, who wrote in a TIME op-ed less than a week after the Brown shooting that “there should be a difference between a police response and a military response.” On Tuesday, Paul’s office confirmed that he will introduce his own bill addressing police militarization next year. He’s working with retiring Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn on the legislation and will talk to other senators “over the coming months” to garner support, according to an aide.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Congress

Rand Paul’s Declaration of War Against ISIS Divides Civil Libertarians

Georgia Senate Candidate David Perdue Campaigns With Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks to an audience of supporters of Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue during a campaign stop in McDonough, Ga. on Oct. 24, 2014. Jessica McGowan—Getty Images

Some think a formal declaration of war would set limits, others worry where it would lead

Less than a week after rebuffing civil libertarians over a National Security Agency reform bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has divided them over a new draft to declare war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria and strip the authority President Obama uses to fight terrorism across the Middle East. Paul released his draft Monday and intends on introducing it in December.

The measure would set unprecedented limits on the Obama Administration, defining ISIS as the enemy and limiting ground combat forces to protect U.S. armed forces from “imminent danger,” attack “high value targets” and advise intelligence operations. The authorization only lasts for a year before Congress would have to re-up it.

The chances of the bill passing the president’s desk are slim, so to say—Congress has not declared war since World War II—but it is interesting as it puts a likely Republican presidential contender on the same side as the New York Times editorial board on the question over whether or not the U.S. needs to act under a new legal authority to fight ISIS while dividing civil libertarians.

Some civil libertarians, angered by Obama and former president George W. Bush, who used authority granted by Congress in 2001 and 2002 to fight the War on Terror years later, praised the measure as an attempt to finally restore the checks and balance system.

“It is the most muscular and assertive use of congressional authority under the Constitution of any of the proposals that are out there so far,” says Chris Anders, a senior legislative counsel in the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office. “We have a president deciding on his own once again to take the country to war without following the Constitution.”

Anders said that Paul could be more specific in defining the objective, enemy and geographic limitations, but thinks that with additional information and hearings Paul can tighten up his draft.

“I think given the information that is available right now, that’s probably about as good as you can do,” he said.

While Paul will face fierce opposition from the scores of defense hawks on Capitol Hill, he is not alone in providing the Administration with new authority to fight ISIS. A spokesman for Democratic California Rep. Adam Schiff, who has pushed along with Sens. Tim Kaine of Virginia and Robert Menendez of New Jersey for new congressional authorization, found a few things he liked in Paul’s plan, including the new limits on the length of the mission and how troops are used.

“Senator Paul’s resolution tracks the bill introduced by Rep. Schiff in key respects—repealing the 2002 authorization, sunsetting the new authority and the 2001 authorization contemporaneously, and limiting the use of ground troops against [ISIS],” says Patrick Boland, Schiff’s spokesman. “While the limitations on ground troops differ in key respects, Senator Paul’s bill is another important contribution to the debate over a new war authorization and adds support to the effort Senator Kaine and Schiff have been making to press for a Congressional debate and action on this key issue during the lame duck session—hopefully his entry into this debate will help jumpstart the conversation on a new authorization which should begin immediately.”

But Paul will face criticism from a vast array of viewpoints—from the Administration and foreign policy hawks to noninterventionists and civil libertarians, who are still smarting over Paul voting “nay” last week to debate a bill to reform the National Security Agency after arguing that it didn’t go far enough. Anders called it a “real mistake” and the “best opportunity this year to rein in the surveillance program.” He added, however, “we have to deal with these issues one at a time.”

Paul could be in more trouble with other civil libertarians on the proposed declaration of war. The libertarian magazine Reason published an article Monday criticizing the lack of “meaningful restraint” for ground forces, noting the “slippery-slope nature of American military adventurism.” And John Mueller, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, told TIME that Paul would be better positioned as a noninterventionist, or as he calls it, on the “side of the angels.” Despite the viciousness of ISIS, Mueller believes that the threat has been “massively exaggerated” and that the notion of Islamic militants threatening the security of the United States is “vastly overblown.”

“If he really wanted to be smart on the merits of it politically, he could be the only candidate opposing getting involved in another miserable war in the Middle East,” says Mueller of Paul.

“The danger with declaring war is that you’re stuck with it,” he said. “That’s a real disadvantage.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Rand Paul Wants to Declare War Against ISIS

“War cannot be initiated without Congress”

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said in a new interview that Congress should formally declare war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) as a way to limit the engagement against the militant group and take war powers back from President Barack Obama.

“War cannot be initiated without Congress,” Paul told the New York Times in advocating for the first formal declaration of war since World War II. Paul is circulating a resolution to do just that.

A likely 2016 presidential candidate whose libertarian-leaning foreign policy is viewed skeptically by many conservatives and mainstream Republicans, Paul is likely to face backlash from members of his own party who don’t want to limit the President’s authority when it comes to fighting ISIS.

“Conservatives are mad at him about immigration. And they’re mad about him using executive authority on Obamacare,” Paul said. “But this is another example where he doesn’t have much respect for Congress, and some conservatives don’t quite get that.”

MORE: The reinventions of Rand Paul

Paul told TIME earlier this year that his support for fighting ISIS, which has taken control of large swaths of Iraq and Syria, “doesn’t mean you give up your principles of thinking war is the last resort.”

[NYT]

TIME Congress

House Sues Obama Over Health Care Law

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 20, 2014 Jim Bourg—AP

"The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution"

House Republicans sued the Obama Administration on Friday over how it has implemented the health care reform law, taking legal action after threatening to do so for months.

The House sued the cabinet secretaries for the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Treasury, and filed the case in the U.S. District Court for Washington D.C., House Speaker John Boehner’s office said. At issue are administrative tweaks the Administration has made during the course of implementing the law.

“Time after time, the President has chosen to ignore the will of the American people and re-write federal law on his own without a vote of Congress,” Boehner said in a statement. “That’s not the way our system of government was designed to work. If this president can get away with making his own laws, future presidents will have the ability to as well. The House has an obligation to stand up for the Constitution, and that is exactly why we are pursuing this course of action.”

The lawsuit went unfiled for months after House Republicans first floated it. Legal experts have been skeptical of its chances of success.

Boehner said in July that the House would sue President Barack Obama for twice delaying the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that businesses with more than 50 full-time employes provide insurance or pay a fee—a provision Republicans oppose anyway. The suit also alleges that the law does not allow the executive branch to transfer funds to insurance companies to reduce out-of-pocket payments for low-income enrollees, as Congress has not appropriated the money for that purpose. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that those cost-sharing subsidies for low-income Americas—those at two-and-a-half times the poverty level, or $11,670 to $29,175 a year for an individual—will cost $175 billion over the next ten years.

Republicans had trouble finding a lawyer to pursue the case, but Boehner found his man this week in George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley, who had testified in favor of such a lawsuit this summer. House Republican aides have suggested the lawsuit could be expanded to include the Obama’s executive actions taken this week to grant temporary legal status to millions of immigrants in the country illegally, but Turley has said in the past that expanding the lawsuit would weaken it.

House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi ridiculed the lawsuit as a political stunt.

“After scouring Washington for months, Republicans have finally found a TV lawyer to file their meritless lawsuit,” Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement Friday. “While the American people want Congress to get serious about creating good-paying jobs and strengthening the middle class, House Republicans are paying $500-an-hour in taxpayer money to sue the President of the United States. The fact is, this lawsuit is a bald-faced attempt to achieve what Republicans have been unable to achieve through the political process.”

TIME Immigration

Obama Will Pressure GOP to ‘Finish the Job’ on Immigration

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama announces executive actions on immigration during a nationally televised address from the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Jim Bourg—AP

President feels 'liberated' now that midterms are over

President Barack Obama will use his executive action on immigration to pressure Republicans to “finish the job” by passing a reform bill, White House Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer said Friday.

At a Christian Science Monitor breakfast at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, Pfeiffer was asked if Obama would tout his action in swing states to put pressure on Republicans.

Pfeiffer didn’t answer directly, but he did say the administration “will be making the case about what we did and the need for Congress to finish the job.”

He added that this would be an “incredibly important priority” in 2015.

The remarks came two weeks after Democrats were routed in the midterms, losing control of the Senate. But Pfeiffer said that in contrast to an election season where Obama needed to protect Democratic candidates and “wasn’t able to be out there and make an argument,” he will now be freer to flaunt his plan, which grants temporary legal status and work permits to almost five million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Though advisers have suggested that Obama feels “liberated” now that midterms are over, Pfeiffer says he’s already looking ahead and planning for to 2016. “A very important thing for him will be to be succeeded by a Democrat,” Pfeiffer said.

TIME Immigration

Boehner: Immigration Action Damages The Presidency

Speaker promised the House will respond

House Speaker John Boehner said President Barack Obama is “damaging the presidency itself” by unilaterally providing temporary legal status and work permits to millions of immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

“With this action he has refused to listen to the American people,” said Boehner in a press conference Friday. “The President has taken actions that he himself has said are those of a king or an emperor, not an American president.”

Boehner did not lay out a specific response to counter the President’s executive action, the largest American immigration move in decades, but promised that “the House will in fact act.”

Republicans are considering everything from using the power of the purse to a lawsuit in response. The latter move may prove unsuccessful, as some of the most high-profile American legal scholars, including Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, have said that the action was within the President’s lawful authority.

TIME Immigration

Here’s Obama’s Immigration Speech In Full

President Barack Obama announced new executive actions on immigration Thursday evening in a primetime address to the nation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

My fellow Americans, tonight, I’d like to talk with you about immigration.

For more than 200 years, our tradition of welcoming immigrants from around the world has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations. It’s kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial. It has shaped our character as a people with limitless possibilities – people not trapped by our past, but able to remake ourselves as we choose.

But today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.

Families who enter our country the right way and play by the rules watch others flout the rules. Business owners who offer their workers good wages and benefits see the competition exploit undocumented immigrants by paying them far less. All of us take offense to anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America. And undocumented immigrants who desperately want to embrace those responsibilities see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart.

It’s been this way for decades. And for decades, we haven’t done much about it.

When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system. And I began by doing what I could to secure our borders. Today, we have more agents and technology deployed to secure our southern border than at any time in our history. And over the past six years, illegal border crossings have been cut by more than half. Although this summer, there was a brief spike in unaccompanied children being apprehended at our border, the number of such children is now actually lower than it’s been in nearly two years. Overall, the number of people trying to cross our border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970s. Those are the facts.

Meanwhile, I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year, 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.

Now, I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.

Tonight, I am announcing those actions.

First, we’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.

Second, I will make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed.

Third, we’ll take steps to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants who already live in our country.

I want to say more about this third issue, because it generates the most passion and controversy. Even as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable – especially those who may be dangerous. That’s why, over the past six years, deportations of criminals are up 80 percent. And that’s why we’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security. Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.

But even as we focus on deporting criminals, the fact is, millions of immigrants – in every state, of every race and nationality – will still live here illegally. And let’s be honest – tracking down, rounding up, and deporting millions of people isn’t realistic. Anyone who suggests otherwise isn’t being straight with you. It’s also not who we are as Americans. After all, most of these immigrants have been here a long time. They work hard, often in tough, low-paying jobs. They support their families. They worship at our churches. Many of their kids are American-born or spent most of their lives here, and their hopes, dreams, and patriotism are just like ours.

As my predecessor, President Bush, once put it: “They are a part of American life.”

Now here’s the thing: we expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect that those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve been in America for more than five years; if you have children who are American citizens or legal residents; if you register, pass a criminal background check, and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes – you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily, without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.

That’s what this deal is. Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

I know some of the critics of this action call it amnesty. Well, it’s not. Amnesty is the immigration system we have today – millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time.

That’s the real amnesty – leaving this broken system the way it is. Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican President and every single Democratic President for the past half century. And to those Members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill. I want to work with both parties to pass a more permanent legislative solution. And the day I sign that bill into law, the actions I take will no longer be necessary. Meanwhile, don’t let a disagreement over a single issue be a dealbreaker on every issue. That’s not how our democracy works, and Congress certainly shouldn’t shut down our government again just because we disagree on this. Americans are tired of gridlock. What our country needs from us right now is a common purpose – a higher purpose.

Most Americans support the types of reforms I’ve talked about tonight. But I understand the disagreements held by many of you at home. Millions of us, myself included, go back generations in this country, with ancestors who put in the painstaking work to become citizens. So we don’t like the notion that anyone might get a free pass to American citizenship. I know that some worry immigration will change the very fabric of who we are, or take our jobs, or stick it to middle-class families at a time when they already feel like they’ve gotten the raw end of the deal for over a decade. I hear these concerns. But that’s not what these steps would do. Our history and the facts show that immigrants are a net plus for our economy and our society. And I believe it’s important that all of us have this debate without impugning each other’s character.

Because for all the back-and-forth of Washington, we have to remember that this debate is about something bigger. It’s about who we are as a country, and who we want to be for future generations.

Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law? Or are we a nation that gives them a chance to make amends, take responsibility, and give their kids a better future?

Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?

Are we a nation that educates the world’s best and brightest in our universities, only to send them home to create businesses in countries that compete against us? Or are we a nation that encourages them to stay and create jobs, businesses, and industries right here in America?

That’s what this debate is all about. We need more than politics as usual when it comes to immigration; we need reasoned, thoughtful, compassionate debate that focuses on our hopes, not our fears.

I know the politics of this issue are tough. But let me tell you why I have come to feel so strongly about it. Over the past few years, I have seen the determination of immigrant fathers who worked two or three jobs, without taking a dime from the government, and at risk at any moment of losing it all, just to build a better life for their kids. I’ve seen the heartbreak and anxiety of children whose mothers might be taken away from them just because they didn’t have the right papers. I’ve seen the courage of students who, except for the circumstances of their birth, are as American as Malia or Sasha; students who bravely come out as undocumented in hopes they could make a difference in a country they love. These people – our neighbors, our classmates, our friends – they did not come here in search of a free ride or an easy life. They came to work, and study, and serve in our military, and above all, contribute to America’s success.

Tomorrow, I’ll travel to Las Vegas and meet with some of these students, including a young woman named Astrid Silva. Astrid was brought to America when she was four years old. Her only possessions were a cross, her doll, and the frilly dress she had on. When she started school, she didn’t speak any English. She caught up to the other kids by reading newspapers and watching PBS, and became a good student. Her father worked in landscaping. Her mother cleaned other people’s homes. They wouldn’t let Astrid apply to a technology magnet school for fear the paperwork would out her as an undocumented immigrant – so she applied behind their back and got in. Still, she mostly lived in the shadows – until her grandmother, who visited every year from Mexico, passed away, and she couldn’t travel to the funeral without risk of being found out and deported. It was around that time she decided to begin advocating for herself and others like her, and today, Astrid Silva is a college student working on her third degree.

Are we a nation that kicks out a striving, hopeful immigrant like Astrid – or are we a nation that finds a way to welcome her in?

Scripture tells us that we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in, and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like, or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal – that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will.

That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless this country we love.

TIME Immigration

House Republicans Argue Over Immigration Response

Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersberg, Md. rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington D.C. on Nov. 7, 2014.
Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersburg, Md., rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 7, 2014 Jacquelyn Martin—AP

Conservatives want a spending fight that appropriators say wouldn't work

Even before President Obama officially announces a major executive action shielding millions of undocumented workers from deportation, Republicans in the House are clashing over how to stop it.

On one side: Conservatives who want to revoke funding for the government programs that will carry out Obama’s unilateral actions. On the other side, appropriators argue that won’t work because of how the programs are funded.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers is pushing for a package of spending bills that would fund the government through September and take a defund effort off the table. His staff noted that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which will likely be in charge of administering Obama’s changes, gets its money through fees and wouldn’t be affected by a spending fight — or even a shutdown.

“Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program,” says Rogers spokeswoman Jennifer Hing. “Therefore, the Appropriations process cannot be used to ‘de-fund’ the agency. The agency has the ability to continue to collect and use fees to continue current operations, and to expand operations as under a new executive order, without needing legislative approval by the Appropriations Committee or the Congress, even under a continuing resolution or a government shutdown.”

But conservatives weren’t buying that argument.

“We could scoop all of their fees if we chose to do that,” says Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). “We could shut them down if we chose to do that. So I don’t think it’s hard at all. I think people are looking for an argument when they find out this doesn’t work they’ll create another one.”

“Just write it into the bill,” he adds. “’No fees shall be used…’”

“We have not had the discussion in conference but at the end of the day it’s our responsibility to approve any spending out of the Treasury—the Constitution is very clear on that,” argued Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp. “I’m not going to give up that authority just because the president wants to take it.”

Conservative Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and even appropriators say that Congress could change how the Citizenship and Immigration Services uses its fees with new authorization. But appropriators argue that Obama would veto the bill, the government would shut down, and the program would continue to operate with its fees.

“There are authorization lines in every bill, especially these big ones,” counters Sessions. “We’ve done it time and time again. It’s a narrow, discrete fix.”

“This is a matter of constitutional importance,” he adds. “This is a presidential overreach.”

Senior Republicans are wary of statements from its most extreme flanks, like outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann’s comments to the Washington Post that Obama’s measure would incur a “social cost” to taxpayers, with “millions of unskilled, illiterate, foreign nationals coming into the United States who can’t speak the English language.”

“That’s the trouble with having some of these new young punks around here,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Washington Post. “They ought to listen to us old geezers.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser