John Boehner's exit strategy

AP already made a very persuasive case as to how much of a headache John Boehner has to deal with regarding DHS funding. With his Senate partner Mitch McConnell putting on every appearance of getting ready to cave to Harry Reid, the Speaker is going to be navigating some very tricky waters if he has to go back to his caucus and ask them to drop their objections to executive amnesty and fund DHS on the Democrats’ terms just to “avoid the blame” for a shutdown. In fact, he may be facing an outright revolt. That daunting job just took one step toward becoming reality, because the “clean” bill has moved on to full debate with a huge majority.

The stalemate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was broken Wednesday as the Senate voted 98-2 to proceed to legislation that would prevent a partial government shutdown.

Democrats agreed to support the DHS bill after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stripped out provisions inserted by the House that would reverse President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

The only votes against proceeding to the bill came from Sens. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

“Democrats will support getting on the House Homeland Security funding bill. In exchange, the leader will provide the only amendment, [it] will be a clean Homeland Security funding substitute,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said.

So what can Boehner do? So far he’s only said, “I’m waiting for the Senate to act. We already did our job.” It’s a pretty good answer, but it’s only going to keep the pot from boiling over for so long. So what can he do if they toss this hot potato back over to the House?

One obvious solution is to get all the House Democrats to vote for a clean bill and then just round up enough establishmentarians in safer districts to get over the finish line. But if he does that, I honestly think he could kiss the Speaker’s gavel goodbye. (And with good reason.)

There may be another way out of this, though. He could reject the Senate bill (assuming it’s for a full year) and send back a bill which funds DHS without the amnesty rider, but only have it last for enough time for the courts in Texas to rule on the pending case. Even though we never should have been blamed for a shutdown in the first place, McConnell has pretty much thrown us under the bus on that one. But waiting for the court to weigh in offers him the advantage of having more time to work with McConnell and see if there is any spine left in the Senate, with the added benefit of using the court ruling – no matter which way it goes – as ammunition to run the amnesty blocking maneuver back up the flagpole in April or May.

No, it’s not a perfect solution and he’s still going to draw a lot of flack, but it might be his only way out. The only other alternative is to simply splinter the party and admit that the Democrats are still running the show.