While an appropriations bill wouldn't stop an agency from collecting fees, Congress has the authority to restrict what the federal government can do with its funds.
"Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes," CRS said in a report requested by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), and shared with TPM. "In either case, the funds available to the agency through fee collections would be subject to the same potential restrictions imposed by Congress to the use of its appropriations as any other type of appropriated funds."
House Republican leaders have opened the door to this approach.
They are weighing a strategy advanced by incoming House Budget Chair Tom Price (R-GA) to strip out immigration funding from the omnibus appropriations bill being negotiated, and deal with that separately in a "continuing resolution." In that, they could attach a rider that stops federal officials from spending any money to process applications for undocumented immigrants seeking a temporary work permit under Obama's program.
That would set up a standoff and a potential government shutdown. Senior administration officials say Obama would veto a bill that unwinds his actions.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) warned Republicans not to pick that fight.
“House Democrats have fought against Republican attempts to shut down the government. Now, House Republicans are seeking to disguise their efforts, threatening our national security in order to undermine the President’s clear legal authority. We will not be enablers to a Republican Government Shutdown, partial or otherwise," she said in a statement on Tuesday, after initial reports of the emerging GOP strategy.
Federal government funding expires on Dec. 11. It is plausible that a fight gets pushed to early next Congress when Republicans take over the Senate and have more clout to confront Obama.