Rescission is not the answer to executive amnesty

Noah wrote at length last night about the GOP’s battle strategy going into the immigration fight ahead. He focused quite a bit on avoiding a shutdown, and while many of our readers disagree on this point, there does seem to one area of consensus. The most likely path to putting executive amnesty on hold until more forces can be marshaled will be through the appropriations process, not some mythical bill achieving conservative goals which the current president will never sign. However, as Quin Hillyer noted at The Corner, there are disturbing reports showing up, such as this one from Conn Carroll, which indicate that Appropriations Chairman Hal Rodgers is leaning towards a rescission strategy.

In this scenario, the GOP would move forward with passing an omnibus bill which fully funds the government without a fight – including money which Obama would use for amnesty – and later push through a bill rescinding the funds for the aforementioned amnesty. As Quin notes, this is a dead end street.

This is sheer and utter nonsense. Balderdash. Tommyrot. And Rogers darn well knows it. Whereas withholding funds for a particular purpose in a larger approps bill at least in theory puts the onus on the president to decide whether it’s worth vetoing the whole bill in order to save the one part, rescissions do just the opposite — and they play entirely into the president’s hands.

In a rescission, Congress is trying to withdraw funds that already have been signed into law. All it takes to block the rescission is a presidential veto — which, it must be noted, is an easy call for him. Absent some pressing motive, his easy answer is to veto it in two seconds flat. After all, he would no longer be needing to choose between that program and all the others in the bill; instead, he would already have his program in hand — so why should he sign the bill taking away what he already has?

It’s sheer lunacy.

As Hillyer correctly recalls, rescission has been used with success in the past, specifically in 1995. At that time, Newt Gingrich pushed through a massive retraction of funds for programs which the GOP opposed. But the situation on the ground that year was an entirely different animal. Bill Clinton had his back against the wall facing plunging poll numbers, an ascendent Republican majority and the very real prospect of being a one and done president. He was ready to sign just about anything that looked like it polled well.

Barack Obama is under no such illusions or restrictions. He will never have to run for election again. The opinions of both the public and his own party in Congress carry no weight for him. He’s all about the legacy at this point, and he would veto a rescission bill in the twinkling of an eye. This plan would fall flat on its face if Rodgers tries to go through with it.

That’s the tightrope the GOP is walking at the moment. On one side is another government shutdown. On the other is an unbridled license for the President to do what he wishes as if the GOP had no power in the legislature. With all due respect to the Let It Burn contingent, another shutdown risks burning the slim amount of good will Republicans earned over the last year as voters became exasperated with Obama and the policies of the Democrats. The worst talking point to hand to the new minority in 2016 is the one which says, the spoiled children in the GOP shut the government back down before their new members even found the restrooms. But by the same token, you don’t just stand down the defensive line and let the President break for the end zone.

There’s a solution here, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work. A number of things will need to go into the omnibus bill which won’t sit well with some conservatives but will bring a stampede of bipartisan support on both sides of the aisle. That will give everyone cover to support a carefully crafted section which defunds any amnesty moves. The other option is to not have one omnibus, but instead break it up into multiple bills covering the disparate functions of the government, get most of them passed and go into a tooth and nail fight over the immigration funding portion. Either would work. But neither rescission nor a total cave will get the job done.