DENVER — After successful campaigns in which they went to great lengths to position themselves as advocates for immigration reform, Senator-elect Cory Gardner and Rep. Mike Coffman split on Thursday over a symbolic bill aimed at overturning President Obama’s executive order sparing five million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
Gardner, who defeated Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and is positioning himself as a moderate within the GOP Senate caucus, voted with a majority of House Republicans in support of Rep. Ted Yoho’s bill that seeks to bar the executive branch from delaying deportations.
Coffman, who pummeled Democratic challenger Andrew Romanoff in a re-drawn and newly diverse 6th Congressional District largely on the strength of his outreach to Latinos and other immigrant communities, was one of just seven House Republicans to vote against Yoho’s bill.
Gardner immediately released a statement following the vote, explaining that he opposes the president’s unilateral action but not comprehensive immigration reform overall.
“Recently, the President issued an executive order that circumvented Congress and asserted power he previously said he doesn’t have,” Gardner said in the statement. “Today the House voted on a bill to condemn the President’s circumvention of Congress. But neither the President’s actions nor today’s legislation will solve the real problem at hand: our broken immigration system.
“Congress must act on immigration reform and both sides have to set aside political gamesmanship to achieve real solutions. Without presenting an alternative plan, today’s vote is not a solution. We owe it to generations past and generations to come to find a solution to our broken immigration system.”
Coffman followed with a similar statement, agreeing with Gardner that the president’s action is unconstitutional but explaining that he thought the legislation would be misleading to the public.
“I voted against H.R. 5759 because, although I strongly believe that it is unconstitutional to have immigration policy made through executive orders and without the consent of Congress, this legislation will only mislead the American people into believing that we are taking care of the problem when the only way to address President Obama’s overreach is either through the U.S. Supreme Court or through the appropriation’s process,” Coffman said.
The 219-197 vote was largely symbolic — a way for Republicans to express dissatisfaction with the immigration orders without risking a government shutdown. The measure is headed for certain death in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said he won’t take up the legislation.
The White House has also threatened to veto the measure.
Yoho’s bill is mainly to provide political cover for Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to move a bill next week that would fund most of the government through next September and avoid a government shutdown on Dec. 12., something hard-line conservatives and outside groups have been pushing for.
But the symbolism isn’t being overlooked by immigration advocates, who signaled earlier this week they would be watching to see how Gardner and Coffman voted on Yoho’s bill.
Note this tweet Thursday from Patty Kupfer, executive director of America’s Voice:
.@repcorygardner, I thought Republicans couldn't just be against things? Today proof what you're for: Deportation of 11 million #copolitics
— Patty Kupfer (@pattykupfer) December 4, 2014
Coffman was the only member of the Colorado delegation to break party ranks. Democratic Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter all voted against the bill, while Republican Reps. Doug Lamborn, Scott Tipton and Gardner voted yes.
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