In Blog No. 55, on December 20, we discussed the objections to the Omnibus Spending Bill raised by opponents of the President’s executive action with respect to immigration. We wrote:
We too have objected to the President’s action, but have noted that as a practical matter there is likely little that Republicans can – or should attempt to – do about it. (The omnibus bill funded the Department of Homeland Security only through the end of February so as to present another opportunity at that time for budgetary mischief inspired by Obama’s immigration initiative.) We are hopeful that cooler heads will again prevail in February.
As readers of RINOcracy.com are doubtless aware, the House passed a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but encumbered it with provisions blocking the President’s executive action on immigration that granted a limited protected status to several million illegal aliens. In the Senate, Democrats quite predictably blocked consideration of the bill, and there matters sit. Congress has adjourned for its President’s Day recess and when they return, there will be less than a week to resolve the impasse. The situation has produced confusion and disagreement among Republicans and even, it appears, tension between Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell
If there is a shutdown of DHS, Republicans will attempt to place the blame on Democrats or at least share it with them. While there is some logic to that argument, it is politically unpersuasive. To begin with, the memory of the last tantrum/shutdown by Republicans is sufficiently fresh that they will inevitably be tagged with responsibility for any shutdowns in the foreseeable future. Moreover, while a majority of the public may have disapproved the President’s executive action (as we did) they are also likely to believe (as we do) that it does not justify the draconian response of a government shutdown.
It may be that, owing to available exceptions, the harm from a shut-off of DHS funding would be less severe than one might think. An analysis reported by the PBS NewsHour indicated that, in the event of a funding cut-off, 85% of DHS employees would continue to work. Nevertheless, the effect would be damaging to the agency and the symbolism could hardly be worse. At a time when the Obama Administration is subject to criticism (well-grounded in our view) of taking too lightly the threat to the homeland posed by radical Islam, the message conveyed by a willingness to hobble DHS is utterly wrong-headed. As Republican Senator Bob Corker put it, rather mildly, “I don’t think a shutdown of the department whose purpose is to secure our homeland is a good idea for anybody,”
It has been suggested that the courts might provide an escape hatch for Republicans by holding the President’s action unlawful and doing so as early as next week. If the President’s action were enjoined, Republicans might be willing to pass a “clean” funding bill for DHS on the theory that legislative restrictions were no longer necessary. On the other hand, as pointed out by Greg Sargent in The Washington Post, that might not be enough for some:
In the short term, if Republicans who want this resolved do seize on a lower-court ruling to argue for funding DHS cleanly, conservatives may respond — understandably — that it could be overturned on appeal. So Republicans must not blink in the drive to block Obama’s actions in Congress, to be absolutely certain the dragon is dead. Which means the brinksmanship could only get crazier from here on out.
So, we will stay tuned as the psychodrama proceeds. Perhaps visits by Republicans to their home districts will have the healthy effect of re-introducing enough of them to reality to make possible some forward progress.