House Republicans came out swinging, passed a killer DHS appropriations bill — one that hammered much needed immigration enforcement, and acted as though they were ready for an immigration battle royal. For one brief, joyous moment, it seemed as though conservatives finally had the Congress they’d long desired.
Boy was that short-lived.
What began as a bill that held sought to beef up immigration enforcement (an area where this administration has been far too lax), ended as a ‘clean’ funding bill with no strings attached. Despite holding majorities in both houses, Republicans received nothing they wanted.
Friday morning, Boehner said he would, “not be blackmailed by Senate Democrats.” Senate Democrats perpetually filibustered the House bill, disallowing debate. By Friday afternoon, Senate Republicans had split the funding bill in two — one, a ‘clean’ funding bill, and the other, a bill that addressed the president’s executive amnesty and other enforcement related items. The ‘clean’ funding bill passed in the Senate. The House tried again, but Senate Democrats refused to go to conference to discuss differences in the House and Senate bills, and so the House found itself in a nasty predicament.
By passing a ‘clean’ funding bill, Senate Republicans gave the White House and Democrats exactly what they wanted, leaving House Republicans without any leverage, any backup plan, and absolutely no way around a ‘clean’ funding bill.
Yet in spite of the Senate sell out, there appeared to be hope. As late as Monday evening, prior to the House’s passage of Tuesday’s ‘clean’ funding bill, Speaker Boehner and House leadership were promising to hold the line and fight.
What went so horribly wrong?
To begin with, Senate Republicans shoved their House pals up a creek without a paddle. That we ended up with a ‘clean’ funding bill falls squarely on the upper chamber. And Boehner should have avoided making promises he was unable to keep, though to his credit, the House has done everything they said they’d do. But those are the least concerning problems in this equation.
As we’ve discussed, the idea that Congress could somehow stop Obama’s amnesty by holding DHS funding hostage was ill conceived from day one.
Prior to agreeing to a ‘clean’ funding bill, Boehner’s office said, “A DHS shutdown would not stop Obama’s amnesty.” And they’re right. Yet this is the weapon they chose?
Agency shutdowns are one of the ugliest ‘solutions’ to policy differences. With Republicans dangling funding over the cliff, a temporary DHS shutdown would’ve been the eventual conclusion in any scenario. Mix in the Democrat’s collective refusal to bend, the White House’s constant veto threats, and a press pool running interference for anyone bearing a (D), and the situation only worsens.*
Most offensive though is the glaring lack of strategy, plan, and any semblance of unified messaging from Republican Congressional leadership.
Florida based Republican strategist Rick Wilson, also critical of the spectacular DHS funding flop, offered a handful of suggestions. “Establish a goal. Test and refine messages that cause pain and damage to your political enemy. Deploy them. Do it again. Raise the pain,” Wilson wrote, “For the 10000x time: a plan beats no plan, every time. They [Congressional Republican leadership] never have a plan to punch back, to beat down, blackmail, and mess with Democrats.” Wilson is absolutely correct.
What Congressional Republican leadership is doing (see also, flying by the seat of their pants) simply isn’t good enough, not by a long shot. All the good intentions in the world mean nothing if they render no results. The Republican’s perpetual failure to produce results (real world results not ‘D.C. successes’) has the GOP base deathly sick of the same tired excuses.
Considering our Democratic opposition, being continually out-maneuvered by these jokers is nothing short of inexcusable. Republican leadership intentions though well meaning, lack a long-term strategy. And going to war without any plan? That’s just a reckless way to lead. Why leadership is not coordinating between the chambers, messaging the hell out of their proposals, launching counter attacks, and making Democrats squirm, remains a mystery. And why is the zeal for hammering the opposition limited to committee hearings and absent from legislative battles?
None of this would be too consequential if not for the stakes. Republican failure now could be disastrous for 2016 when those that counted on the GOP to lead, remember fiascos like this one. Because without change, there will undoubtedly be a DHS Funding Fiaso 2.0.
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*A brief, but relevant note on the DHS shutdown strategy:
It’s true that approximately 200,000 of DHS’s 231,000+ employees are ‘essential’ and therefore immune to furlough in the event of a shutdown. But what about the other 31,000? Most would be hard pressed to survive indefinitely without receiving a paycheck. “I promise I’ll get paid eventually,” is not something landlords want to hear. In the abstract, agency shutdowns might sound like the best course of action, but individual livelihoods should not be sacrificed at the alter of political grandstanding.
And then there’s the “Defund DHS! We don’t need them anyway!” route. By no means was this a realistic option with the current White House occupant. If the goal is to beef up immigration enforcement, how would defunding the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Patrol, and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, essentially every entity in charge of enforcement, bring Republicans any closer to that goal? It wouldn’t.DONATE
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