McConnell under the microscope

It looked like the cave train was rolling at full speed last night, even through there were already some Republicans kicking and screaming. Mitch McConnell was inexplicably moving toward stripping the executive amnesty provisions out of the DHS funding package and offering up a “clean bill” to Harry Reid. (Who, it seems increasingly clear, is somehow still in charge of the Senate despite the results of the last elections.) We arrived at gut check time, and the test results seem to include a lot of failing grades. It’s true that the media had done their dirty work well and had the public ready to blame the Republicans if DHS wasn’t funded (though the Republicans have offered up full funding for it already) but sometimes you have to make some hard choices when you’re the top dog.

To make matters worse, if McConnell actually does this he’s going to need some help from the House. Fortunately, there were still a few folks with a spine left on the Hill and they were not remaining silent.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said he “absolutely” won’t vote for a DHS funding bill that allows the November actions to go forward. He suggested freshman GOP senators failed to deliver on campaign promises.

“If I was a donor to some of these senators that just won election and was told things would be different in a new Senate, I’d be pretty pissed. We put Harry Reid back in charge of the Senate again?” Huelskamp said.

Huelskamp said that separating the bill freezing the executive actions from a must-pass DHS funding bill eliminates Republicans’ leverage over Democrats.

“It’s stupid. It doesn’t go anywhere. He knows that,” Huelskamp said of McConnell’s proposal. “Does he take us all for a fool that somehow that’s going to solve the problem that he was going to fight tooth and nail against?”

Huelskamp was quickly joined by Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) who called the proposal tantamount to surrender, and predicted that it won’t have any support in the lower chamber. Ted Cruz invoked the power of the purse to remind his colleagues of their responsibility. So we’re hearing a lot of positive words on the damage control front, but the real question we need to ask is how we wound up in damage control mode in the first place.

Mitch caving is troubling enough in and of itself, but he’s setting a chain of events in motion which spreads the poison out among many players in a short period. Even if we assume that he can round up the votes to do this, nothing is settled. He would be handing a grenade back to Boehner in the House at a point where the Speaker was only just beginning to breath a bit easier regarding the security of his position. How does he get his members to go along with this scheme?

The answer is that he doesn’t. And then, when they send the original bill back over to McConnell, the clock has run out and DHS furloughs roughly 30K people. At that point, the media goes into full blown Party Like It’s 1999 mode because they have a shutdown and the story of the day is that the House Republicans are fighting the Senate Republicans… again. That’s not how this was supposed to play out. We have two majorities. They were supposed to pass the funding for DHS and cut out the amnesty. It was really just as easy as that. And if the Democrats refused to end the filibuster and they wanted to shut down DHS, then so be it. The media would have had too many viewers blaming the GOP anyway, but McConnell and Boehner would have had the angels of the truth riding on their shoulders.

McConnell isn’t just losing the battle on one single bill. He’s risking losing the war by giving up the advantage which so many people worked for in returning the GOP to the leadership in the Senate. If this is what we’re going to do with the majority, there was little point in taking it back.