The amendment, which strips funding so that the Justice Department cannot pursue the lawsuits, passed 238-173. Twelve Democrats voted for it, while six Republicans voted against it.
The amendment specifically applies to laws in Arizona, Oklahoma, Missouri, Utah, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Indiana. The Obama administration and immigrant-rights groups have sued to block laws in each of those states.
“Instead of using tax dollars to sue states, the Department of Justice and other branches of this government should start focusing on enforcing existing immigration laws,” said Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican who as mayor of Hazleton oversaw a city ordinance cracking down on illegal immigration. “Until they do, the Department of Justice should not receive one federal tax dollar to sue states.”
Last month the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Obama administration’s challenge to Arizona’s crackdown law, which requires state and local police to check the legal status of those they are investigating whom they suspect of being in the country illegally.
The amendment still would need approval by the Senate and acceptance by President Obama — both of which are unlikely. But Wednesday’s vote underscores the popularity of state laws. Recent polling shows an overwhelming majority of voters support the idea of states being able to act.
The Republicans who voted against the amendment were Reps. Judy Biggert of Illinois, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Robert Dold of Illinois, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, David Rivera of Florida and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.
The Democrats who voted yes were Reps. Jason Altmire of Pennsylvania, John Barrow of Georgia, Dan Boren of Oklahoma, Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Larry Kissell of North Carolina, Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts, Jim Matheson of Utah, Mike McIntyre of North Carolina, Colin Peterson of Minnesota, Nick J. Rahall II of West Virginia, Mike Ross of Arkansas and Heath Shuler of North Carolina.