A top Senate Democrat lent credibility to conservative efforts to block President Obama’s pending administrative amnesty, explaining that Congress has the authority to withhold funding for presidential initiatives.
“It happens all the time,” retiring Senator Carl Levin (D., Mich.) told National Review Online while walking through the Capitol.
Levin emphasized the distinction between shutting down the government, as happened last year, and refusing to appropriate money for something.
“That’s not uncommon that there’s amendments saying ‘none of the funds in this appropriation bill may be spent for’ — fill in the blank,” Levin said.
Republican lawmakers are debating whether to pass legislation funding government for the whole year or for a shorter term. Senator Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and other immigration hawks oppose a long-term funding measure because it would provide Obama with the money he needs to implement his executive orders. Instead, they want to pass a short-term bill and then withhold funding for the Department of Homeland Security offices tasked with carrying out the orders.
Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, criticized that tactic as “an effort to shut down the government.”
Levin disagrees. He described withholding funds for the executive orders on immigration as a standard congressional procedure that should not be confused with shutting down the government.
“That’s not slash-and-burn,” he told NRO. “That’s not bringing down the government. That’s a fairly traditional, targeted approach to make a policy point.”
Levin’s days in Congress are numbered. He is being replaced next year by Democratic Senator-elect Gary Peters.