Often we are told about the importance of doing the hard right as opposed to the easy wrong. The Senate GOP, however, is confronted with the option of doing the easy right or the hard wrong. Guess which one Mitch McConnell is opting for.
The issue facing Congress on the Department of Homeland Security budget is not trivial. What is at stake is nothing less than the issue of separation of powers. The Constitution, despite being more than a hundred years old and hard to understand, gives Congress and Congress alone power to regulate immigration and naturalization. What Obama is doing is not a coincidence. He arrogated to himself the power to decide when Congress was actually in session. The EPA, FCC, and other federal agencies have worked overtime cutting into the authority of Congress.
The Department of Homeland Security runs out of funding in just a few days. The funding bill passed by the House, the bill that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can’t get through the Senate, forbids the use of any federal funds to implement Obama’s power grab. Unable to pass the bill, McConnell has been reduced to negotiating with himself.
McConnell negotiates with himself and gets screwed.
My colleague, Leon Wolf, reported on one gambit yesterday (see McConnell Flashes His Yellow Belly). The Senate is considering stripping out the funding language the Democrats don’t like and address it as stand alone legislation. This is simply a statement that the Senate leadership thinks we are all stupid. The prohibition on funding is only viable if it is part of the overall funding bill. This requires the Democrats to filibuster the bill and, if they do eventually pass it, it requires Obama to veto the funding bill.
Stripping out the House’s funding language simply guarantees that Obama’s amnesty program will proceed because neither the Senate Democrats nor the White House have any incentive to do anything but obstruct.
Enter: The Bobbsey Twins and the Too Clever By Half strategy
The second stupid idea comes, perhaps predictably, from the Senate’s equivalent of the Bobbsey twins, John McCain and Lindsey Graham. From this ABC’s This Week:
“I agree with the Texas judge who said that the executive orders were illegal,” Graham said told George Stephanopoulos during an ABC interview. “I hope Republicans will come together and back the court case, file a friend-of-the-court brief with the court, and fund DHS. I am willing and ready to pass a DHS funding bill and let this play out in court. The worst possible outcome for this nation is to defund the Department of Homeland Security given the multiple threats we face to our homeland. And I will not be part of that.”
Note how Graham throws in the utterly bogus Democrat talking point. Even without a budget well over 80% of DHS will remain on the job. And if we’ve reached the sad state of affairs where we are actually relying on DHS for protection maybe we’d be better off if someone put us out of our misery.
McCain appeared on Face the Nation and made this pronouncement:
JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don’t believe we will.
We now have an exit sign. And that is the federal court decision saying that the president’s actions unilaterally are unconstitutional. And I think we have got a great argument to the United States Supreme Court, where it will go, because 22 times the president of the United States said it was unconstitutional for him to take the action that he had decided to take.
I believe we have got an option there that we should pursue. I would love to be a friend of whoever it is taking this case all the way up to the United States Supreme Court. So, I think that’s the best way that we can resolve this. But have no doubt, I am angry, as are my constituents in a border state, that the president of the United States would unconstitutionally issue the executive orders that he did.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I understand that. And I understand your position on that.
But, I mean, the idea that the government might actually shut down, that the Senate would go along with that, I take it you are going to oppose that, even though some of your Republicans do want to do that.
MCCAIN: I do oppose it.
And I remember last time we shut down the whole government. This would obviously be Homeland Security. The last time we shut down the whole government, we turned away 600,000 visitors to our national parks here in Arizona. I don’t want to see that movie again.
Either McCain was deep in his cups or his dotage. All that is being defunded here is the ability of Department of Homeland Security’s ability to carry out a patently illegal program. The “600,000 visitors to our national parks” comment is just stupid in the context of the current debate unless McCain thinks — and I am completely open to this interpretation — that DHS runs the national parks system.
Moderates are doing what they do: selling out to the lowest bidder.
And where the Bobbsey twins lead, other Quisling Republicans will follow:
Moderates like Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, both of whom are up in 2016, want to avoid a shutdown showdown over the immigration issue.
Ayotte suggested filing an amicus brief with a Texas court considering a challenge by 26 states — something some of her colleagues have already done.
“There’s certainly a strategy there that we could file an amicus brief to that, through the court system like we did in the NLRB case where the president’s actions were found unconstitutional, and I would support that,” Ayotte said, while also expressing support for a vote on disapproving of Obama’s executive actions.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who should really know better, has joined the chorus seeking media approval rather than adhering to principle:
Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday stressed the need to fund the Department of Homeland Security before a partial shutdown begins on Feb. 28.
“We have to fund Homeland Security,” Rubio said at a press conference in Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We can’t let Homeland Security shut down.”
Rubio suggested that Republicans should find another path forward for funding the DHS now that Senate Democrats are blocking legislation that would roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Of course, Congress should be in court trying to stop this program. Of course, they should file an amicus brief. But they should also use their inherent power to prevent this program from happening. What if the courts find this is legal, just like they found ObamaCare was actually a tax? Do we really want the separation of powers to rest on how satisfactory Anthony Kennedy’s most recent bowel movement was?
Fighting this until the last dog dies should be a no-brainer for anyone with a brain. Even Mitch McConnell and the Machiavellis he employs should be able to figure out this one.
There is no risk to public safety.
During the 2013 government shutdown, around 200,000 DHS employees were required to report to work, many of them without pay.
Those that are required to work include 50,000 TSA screeners, 40,000 active duty Coast Guard members, 13,000 immigration law enforcement officers, 40,000 border patrol and customs officers, and 4,000 Secret Service agents.
But there would be some — around 30,000 or so — furloughs, mainly hitting the department’s management and administrative functions. It’s possible, though, that staffers furloughed could be called back to work in case of an emergency — and immediately re-furloughed after they handled the issue.
Despite Jeh Johnson’s mewling bout “mall threats,“
“If anyone is planning to go to the Mall of America today, they’ve got to be particularly careful,” Johnson said. “There will be enhanced security there, but public vigilance, public awareness and public caution in situations like this is particularly important, and it’s the environment we’re in, frankly.”
His comments come as the Mall of America implements new security measures — some of which the mall said in a statement would be noticeable to shoppers.
DHS has nothing to do with this. DHS competence may not be much above the level of “mall cops” but, thankfully, they aren’t responsible for that.
There is no public relations downside.
The government is not shutting down. The impact will be felt by a small number of DHS managers. Already the narrative is being set. As Leon demonstrated yesterday. When CNN says the Democrats are blocking funding the blame game is over.
From The Hill
From a PR standpoint, this is a slamdunk. Not only will the impact not be felt by the public but the Democrats are getting the blame.
Even if the GOP gets blamed, it doesn’t matter.
Even were this not the case, the idea that shutdowns or getting blamed for them is silly. In the aftermath of the 1995 shutdown, the House GOP lost some seats because they picked up several seats in Democratic districts. The GOP gained Senate seats. The October 2013 shutdown was followed by the blow-out in 2014.
There is no need to act.
McConnell is shooting himself in the foot by making these repeated votes. He needs to move on to other business and revisit this when the Senate Democrats have agreed to move the bill. His allowing this story to dominate the headlines is just some of the clownish issues management that we’ve come to expect from the Senate GOP leadership. Time doesn’t matter here because even if the Senate Democrats allow a vote, Obama is going to veto the bill at least once. Forget about it. Move on.
The decision facing Congress is very simple and very stark. Will it allow Obama to make decisions that only the Congress is allowed to make? Or will it make a stand in defense of the Constitution?