Does the media care that the Democratic message on DHS funding fight makes no sense?

The short answer to that one is, “no.” The evidence for that being this perfectly credulous tweet via NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Luke Russert who apparently believes it is his role to repeat Democratic talking points nearly verbatim.


Lucille Bluth couldn’t summon an eye roll exaggerated enough to communicate the imprudence of this assertion.

The Democratic Party’s messaging against the GOP’s efforts to halt the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration, echoed uncritically by their allies in the press, is perfectly contradictory.

Many Democrats claim that Obama’s orders cannot be halted. The Department of Homeland Security manages the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency, but that is also fee-funded agency. Democrats insist that it does not require annual appropriations in order to maintain operations. Multiyear appropriations funding and the fact that only 31,000 of DHS’s 231,000 employees are deemed nonessential lends credence to the claim that Obama’s executive order will be implemented regardless of the GOP’s actions.

Even if the president vetoes the GOP’s plan and an insurmountable impasse results in a “shutdown” of DHS, 85 percent of that department continued to operate during the 2013 government shutdown. That would undoubtedly be the case today.

The National Journal reported, however, the impact of a department-wide “shutdown” would not be painless:

For example, a presidential-election cycle is starting, but DHS can’t hire more Secret Service agents. Funding for enhanced detention capabilities in Texas will be hindered, Johnson told the committee—at least until the department is funded through fiscal 2015.

Additionally, investing in new border surveillance would be put on hold. DHS’s non-disaster grants, which go to state and local municipalities, will go unfunded. And the budget uncertainty could potentially delay the delivery of a National Security Cutter, which is the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s fleet, according to a DHS official.


Yes, salaries were curtailed, training programs were halted, and purchasing power was reduced in 2013, and that would be repeated in the event of a new reduction in activity. The burden on DHS employees in the event of a shutdown will be an onerous one, but the department will continue to function.

If that were the extent of the Democratic Party’s message on this issue, it would be both logical and difficult to counter. But that is not the extent of the Democratic Party’s message, as evidenced by Russert’s republication of it.

Democrats contend that, while the Republicans cannot possibly shut down the Department of Homeland Security and thwart the implementation of Obama’s executive order, they are also preventing America from securing itself against threats to national security… huh?

“In January, a horrible, horrible terrorist attack took place in Paris,” the Democratic House minority leader told reporters this week. “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.”

White House Press Sec. Josh Earnest echoed Pelosi’s dishonest claim that Republicans are playing politics with America’s national security. “There is never a good time for Republicans to do something like this but right now seems like a particularly bad time for them to do so,” he said on Monday in reference to the terrorist attacks in Paris.


Politically, it is easy to see why Democrats would adopt this approach. “Don’t let the GOP shut down national security” is a more resonant message than “Obama’s unpopular executive order is going ahead, and there is nothing you can do about it.” One of these messages is defensible, however, while the other is not.

It is not too much to ask for the press to investigate the veracity of the Democratic Party’s claims before repeating them without qualification. Increasingly, though, that is a request the right is forced to make.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the GOP proposal as a “defunding” measure. That is inaccurate.

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Salena Zito 12:00 AM | February 27, 2024