Another empty threat or the last straw?
This is noteworthy, I think, not so much because there’s a legit prospect of mutiny as because it shows what a total strategic clusterfark the whole cromnibus/DHS/amnesty fiasco has been. Not only are Republicans at each other’s throats, there’s a nonzero chance that DHS may shut down this week because the Republican-controlled House and the Republican-controlled Senate simply can’t get on the same page. Imagine that. Imagine if the first big legislative standoff in the new GOP Congress ends with a stalemate between the two chambers rather than a stalemate between the GOP and Obama.
And all of this was perfectly foreseeable two months ago when Boehner signed off on the “cromnibus,” setting up a showdown on DHS funding over amnesty.
According to four senators at the lunch session, a frustrated Sen. Jeff Sessions angrily dismissed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, arguing that his party should be prepared for an all-out battle with Democrats to ratchet up public pressure and force President Barack Obama to drop his immigration policies. But Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who could face a tough reelection next year, sharply countered that McConnell’s plan was the only option to not hamper law enforcement agencies that rely on money from the Department of Homeland Security…
[S]everal House Republicans and their top aides have privately told POLITICO that a misstep by Boehner in this legislative skirmish could imperil his speakership. One said that Republicans would weigh trying to remove him from the position if he relents on his promise to fight the president’s unilateral action on immigration “tooth and nail.”…
In a sign of how difficult the path in the House is, one senior House Republican, who is close to party leaders and spoke anonymously to discuss strategy, said the Senate’s plan to send two bills to the House is “a joke.” Several top House Republicans believe the only way a clean funding bill can pass their chamber is if the DHS shuts down and pressure builds for a resolution.
Sessions reportedly told Senate Republicans he’s confident that a DHS shutdown would be blamed on Democrats, not Republicans, which seems … naive. But the Sessions/Ayotte squabble is a microcosm of the strategic blunder here by Republican leaders in failing to anticipate the rifts a DHS/amnesty maneuver would open up. You’ve got conservatives pitted against moderates, border hawks pitted against natsec hawks, people who want to bring President Overreach to heel pitted against people who want to show the GOP can run government without disruption, and even the House pitted against the Senate. It’s arguably the most embarrassing leadership mess by the GOP since they regained a foothold in government in 2010. This is how they chose to open two years of majority rule over the legislative branch. According to some reports, Boehner and McConnell haven’t even spoken in two weeks.
More than 20 House conservatives sent a letter to Boehner yesterday warning him not to follow McConnell’s lead by passing a “clean” DHS funding bill. Boehner can afford to lose 20 Republicans but not much more than that: He’s got 245 seats, so if 28 Republicans defect, he’ll have to go begging Pelosi and the Democrats for votes. Imagine that as the potential denouement of the GOP’s big power-of-the-purse gambit — John Boehner, commander of the largest Republican House majority in decades, groveling to the minority because his own side can’t even surrender to Obama’s outrageous immigration power grab without help. We’re at the point where O must be tempted to start making new demands of the GOP to see if he can make this capitulation even more total. Instead of insisting on a clean DHS funding bill, why not require Boehner and McConnell to give up on the Keystone pipeline too? Pretty soon, both of them will be willing to do nearly anything to get out of this stupid jam that they’ve created for themselves.
The way this ends, I assume, is with a short DHS shutdown followed by a clean funding bill in the House. Boehner can’t cave before the deadline, I think; if he forces a symbolic shutdown of a few days, he’ll at least show conservatives that he was more willing to hold the line than McConnell was. If he can escape from this with tea partiers convinced that it’s McConnell, not him, who’s the real squish in Republican leadership, that’ll be a small consolation prize. And if, as everyone expects, snap polls taken during the DHS shutdown show that the GOP’s getting most of the blame, that’ll blunt some of the conservative attacks once a clean bill hits the House floor. It’s one thing to cave when there’s merely a theoretical threat of political damage, it’s another to do it when you’re taking on water. That’s essentially what the GOP leadership’s arguing over right now: How much water should they be willing to take on before abandoning ship?
Update: If you believe the Examiner’s sources, this is an actual quote from Boehner at this morning’s caucus meeting, just a few days before the DHS deadline: “‘I haven’t had a conversation with McConnell but I will — today.’” No conversations until now? After two weeks of silence?