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Beltway insider: Shutdown not out of question

WASHINGTON – While it’s difficult to react to something that hasn’t happened yet, the question of the hour for GOP lawmakers is: What will they do if President Obama grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, as he has promised to do before the year ends?

A well-placed Capitol Hill source confirmed to WND that, despite recent headlines, conservative lawmakers have not ruled out a government shutdown as a last resort; they just consider it premature to talk about one.

In an interview with WND, leading conservative Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, seemed to agree with that assessment.

“I do think the power of the purse is likely to play a role in our response to it, but it is difficult to know what that response might be until we see what his action is,” Lee said.

“We do look generally at our spending power as the last, best protection against overreaching by a president who is starting to accumulate too much power,” he added.

But, Lee said, until he sees what Obama actually does, it’s hard to know how to respond.

Watch WND’s interview with Sen. Lee:

Echoing sentiments made to WND Monday by Senator-elect Rep. James Lankford, R-Okla., the source said if Obama takes only modest steps on immigration, a response less aggressive than a shutdown would be appropriate. Lee’s “wait-and-see” approach appeared in accord with that strategy.

Some conservatives see a shutdown as the only option to stop amnesty if Obama does issue an executive order. But GOP leaders fear the public would blame Republicans.

The GOP-controlled Congress could send the president a series of short-term spending measures, called continuing resolutions, or CRs, before a Dec. 11 deadline. The CRs could fund everything but the tools he would need to implement amnesty, perhaps including such things as the printing of millions of new Social Security cards.

If Obama refused to sign such bills, the government would then be unfunded after Dec. 11 until either the president or Congress changed course.

Lee told WND he believes Republican leaders might be amenable to using CRs to defund an amnesty order, but he didn’t appear to convey an urgency to react to whatever Obama might do.

He implied waiting could work to Republicans’ advantage.

“If nothing else, the uncertainty created by all of it might, I suspect, give rise to a very short-term CR, one that would take us around the bend into next year,” he said. “At that point, we could pass something else with Republican votes in the new Republican Senate.”

So, although it may come to a funding showdown, Lee found another reason not to talk about a shutdown yet: Public opinion on the issue is working in the conservatives’ favor.

“We just had an election in which Americans resoundingly chose Republicans to govern in the Senate and the House of Representatives,” he said. “Seventy-four percent of those who voted in the election oppose having the president take executive action unilaterally on amnesty.”

Lee added: “Now, that includes a whole lot of people who like amnesty as a policy measure, as a legislative matter. But they don’t want the president to do this on his own because they recognize, just as the president himself did back in 2011 when discussing amnesty, that he lacks the power to do this on his own.”

Besides, waiting to see how voters react to whatever Obama does may give those voters more time to put pressure on Democrats, many of whom also appear wary of an executive-ordered amnesty.

“I think a lot of my Democratic colleagues are tired of being asked again and again to protect the president, often at great political expense to themselves and their fellow Democrats,” Lee told WND. “And I think they saw the results of this election and realize enough is enough.”

He emphasized: “It’s one thing to talk about making law with a pen and a cell phone, it’s another thing to take a very drastic action that would fundamentally transform our law in this area.”

Above all other considerations, Lee sees a simple solution before amnesty even becomes a reality.

“All we need is for the president to abide by the rule of law,” he said. “To respect the rule of law. And even if he can’t respect the rule of law, at least respect the outcome of the election.”

Follow Garth Kant @DCgarth