House Republicans looked set to pass a bill on Thursday aimed at addressing the crisis on the southern border. After being revised repeatedly in order to appease conservative members who thought the bill did not go far enough, the leadership appeared to have settled on a final version which enjoyed broad support. The package even had the backing of moderate Democrats like Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
“GOP leaders went to great lengths to secure passage by allowing a separate vote on a measure that would block Obama from any further executive action to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children,” USA Today’s Susan Davis reported on Thursday.
While the GOP leadership realized that the bill would never be passed in the Senate (even if it were, President Barack Obama pledged to veto it), House Republicans were prepared to pass something to address the issue which communicated to the American people that they were acting to address what the GOP had been calling a crisis for weeks.
But the votes did not materialize and, rather than see the bill fail in the House, the leadership pulled it. Democrats are ecstatic.
“Another stunning legislative embarrassment for House Republicans has handed Democrats a mighty big talking point over the next three months until the midterm elections: The GOP is incapable — if not unwilling — to govern, they will argue,” NBC News’ First Read team reported on Friday.
[T]he past 48 hours might have been even worse for Republicans — suing the president for taking executive action, not passing legislation to provide relief at the border, and then saying that there are executive actions Obama should be taking on the border. (Huh?) As even Charles Krauthammer said on Fox, “It is ridiculous to sue the president on a Wednesday because he oversteps the law … and then on a Thursday say that he should overstep the law.” Here’s the deal: If Democrats hold serve in November (retain control of the Senate, minimize losses or even pick up seats in the House), we’ll all look back on the last two days as the week the GOP blew it.
Moderate House Republicans like Tom Cole (R-OK) cannot square the circle and, in a display of intellectual honesty, conceded on Friday that his fellow members are behaving in an absurdly contradictory fashion.
Even Texas Gov. Rick Perry took a shot at Congress for its inaction. “Congress and the president have a duty to address our border security issues without further delay. Congress should not go into recess until the job is completed,” he said on Thursday.
Even if Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did not play a leading role in helping to scuttle the border bill, as Washington Examiner reporters Betsy Woodruff and David Drucker revealed Thursday evening, his involvement in this episode will feature prominently in Democratic talking points and fundraising pitches. The junior Texas senator who led Republicans into the disastrous government shutdown last fall motivates the Democratic base nearly as much as does former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Conservatives claim that the GOP’s bill was a political maneuver and that, if the border crisis is real, it should be tackled seriously and with resolve. They are correct, but the Senate and the White House are arrayed in opposition to tackling this problem with the seriousness it deserves.
Lacking the authority to resolve the border crisis on their own, the House GOP sought an advantageous position for the summer in order to put the onus back on the president. That effort failed and, unless the House Republicans’ emergency scramble to craft and pass some border measure is fruitful, GOP members will spend the summer explaining to the press why they did nothing on a “crisis” but were perfectly united when it came to suing the president. And the average Democratic base voter will be that much more energized for it.
This was never about policy, it was always about politics. For too long, Republicans have falsely equated good governance with good politics. These are not synonymous. Democrats learned long ago that good politics is good politics; governance comes later, if ever. The purest of intentions do not amount to much, particularly when those intentions are and ever will be impugned in the press.
This was an unforced error. One which serves to elevate the careers of a few while diminishing the party’s overall chances for success in November. The House Republicans may yet correct this mistake, and the damage might be mitigated if they do. But if they do not, this is going to be one long August recess.