I’d be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this is just standard “we hate shutdowns (but we’ll do ’em if necessary)!” messaging if not for the fact that John Thune already promised on national TV that Senate Republicans won’t go along with shutting down DHS. That was supposed to be the GOP’s key leverage from the “cromnibus”: They’d fund everything in the government except Homeland Security, whose funding would be made contingent on Obama agreeing to rescind his executive amnesty. A month later and here we are, with the Republican Speaker of the House hinting that they might have to turn out the lights at DHS and the chairman of the Senate Republican Conference saying, er, no.
It’s not just Thune either. How’s McConnell going to get a defunding bill past a filibuster when GOP Senate centrists are already this nervous?
“I would be concerned if the funding restrictions affected the ability of the Department of Homeland Security to carry out its vital functions,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “Another way to challenge the president might be in court.”
She cited the successful challenge against President Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
Two other centrists, Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), expressed reservations with the House effort last week.
“In general I want to make sure we run the government and a key part of government is homeland security, especially what happened in France,” Kirk said. “In the end, cooler heads should prevail and we shouldn’t defund critical security infrastructure.”
Yeah, that’s a new X factor in all this. The optics of defunding Homeland Security were always going to be dicey, but trying to do it after the Paris attacks when concern about terrorism is rising makes it harder. Sounds like Collins, Kirk, and Heller are already nervous about it; hard to believe pro-amnesty superhawks like McCain and Graham will go along with it either. Pelosi’s turning the screws too:
“In January, a horrible, horrible terrorist attack took place in Paris,” Pelosi told reporters on the Capitol steps. “You’d think it would have heightened the urgency to pass a homeland security bill, but the Republicans still say no to passing a clean bill unless they can be a menace to immigration.”
She tweeted this out earlier:
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 13, 2015
If the five Republicans named above break no, that puts McConnell below 50 votes to start. Even if he holds the rest of the caucus, where do the other 11 votes come from? In fact, some of the bills being considered by the House are so ambitious in undoing Obama’s immigration moves — one of them would undo not only November’s executive amnesty but the original DACA amnesty for DREAMers in 2012 — that even centrist Democrats are likely to stay away from them. A few people on the Hill have whispered to Byron York that the bills may be deliberately controversial because Boehner and McConnell want them to fail; only then can they pass a clean bill and put this immigration mess behind them, saying, “Hey, we tried.” Tellingly, when asked at today’s press conference, Boehner didn’t say (i.e. didn’t rule out) passing a clean funding bill for DHS if the GOP’s immigration measures stall in the Senate (or end up being vetoed by Obama).
Long story short, executive amnesty is here to stay. But we all knew that.