“Four Days Til Stupidity Erupts”: Contradicting The Narrative That The GOP Was All Grown Up And Muzzled Its Tea Party Faction
So the expiration of appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security approaches in just four days, and there’s no sign yet that Republicans are going to be able to figure out how to back down from their demands for cancellation of the President’s executive actions on immigration without looking weak to the Almighty Base.
This is all kinds of stupid for a number of reasons, including (a) the conflict with GOP Chicken Little rhetoric over homeland security threats; (b) the fact that the portion of DHS that actually enforces immigration laws would be largely unaffected since it operates on fees rather than appropriations; (c) as of the moment, the offending 2014 immigration executive order has been suspended pending judicial review; and (d) this gives Democrats a huge, huge political gift while contradicting the dominant media narrative of 2014 that the GOP was all grown up and had muzzled its Tea Party faction.
Point this out to your average conservative activist and you’ll generally hear mumbling about the Constitution, various forms of denial that anyone will care, and/or the classic ex post facto argument that being stupid on a government shutdown didn’t keep Republicans from doing very well in 2014. I guess the prospective argument would be that Republicans can and should keep doing egregiously stupid things until they lose an election, which could happen in a little over nineteen months. What you won’t hear are many predictions this strategem will actually work to change public policy. So it’s all about posturing, and that’s never a good sign for a serious political party.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2015
“GOP To DHS; Governing Is Hard”: Republicans Are Edging Ever Closer To A Totally Predictable Shutdown
Weeks after winning the Senate, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a nice thought:
“We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the federal debt,” he said.
With less than two weeks before yet another government shutdown, chaos remains and dysfunction is still normal.
The latest manufactured drama is over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is scheduled to expire on February 27.
The scenario should sound familiar:
Much like the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, House Republicans are refusing to pass any bill that funds DHS that doesn’t contain a provision overturning the Obama administration’s executive orders on undocumented immigrants and Senate Democrats are refusing to debate any DHS funding bill that has this language.
(Nevermind, the bill would be vetoed the minute it hit the president’s desk. This isn’t about the winning—it’s about the game.)
The result is a partisan stalemate in which neither side will blink.
And once again, this was all by design.
This showdown was set up at the end of 2014 with the debate over “the Cromnibus,” the controversial budget bill that funded the government for most of 2015.
Many conservative Republicans were loath to agree to any measure that funded the government didn’t overturn the executive orders.
Democrats refused to go along with anything other than a bill that funded DHS and omitted the executive order language.
The language would go beyond the controversial executive order that Obama issued in 2014 to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and also apply to the “DREAMers,” a subset of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States while they were underage and have clean criminal records. DREAMers were allowed to stay in the United States in an executive order that the administration issued in 2012.
To avoid another government shutdown, a compromise was reached before lawmakers went home for the holidays.
Most of the federal government would be funded for a year but the DHS would only receive sufficient appropriations to last through the end of February.
The idea was that conservatives could force their standoff on immigration then and surely, no one would want to let the government agency responsible for keeping the United States safe go dark.
But, of course, that is not the case.
To add more futility to their cause, the DHS will keep on running even without being funded. Workers in key agencies like the Border Patrol and the Transportation Safety Administration are considered “essential” and will report to work regardless—they just won’t be paid to do their jobs.
While many other DHS employees could be furloughed, this limitation prevents a shutdown from turning into an immediate crisis and reduces the cost.
On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to embrace a potential shutdown and unwilling to consider a compromise.
He told Fox News, “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” Boehner then said, “Senate Democrats are the ones putting us in this precarious position. It’s up to Senate Democrats to get their act together.”
But it’s not just Senate Democrats who think shutting down the DHS is a bad idea. Senate Republicans—John McCain, Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk, to name a few—also have expressed problems with using the DHS as a way to tweak the president.
The impasse is also handing Senate Democrats a powerful political weapon.
In a statement last week Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “The Republican Congress is a mess, pure and simple. Democrats are happy to help our Republican colleagues resolve their problems but the first step is for Republican leaders to do the right thing and pass a clean bill to fund Homeland Security.”
The political dilemma for Republicans is that while a shutdown plays well with their base, it gives them relatively little leverage.
Most key functions of the DHS will be funded regardless and the result of past GOP brinkmanship is that Republicans are likely to bear the burden of the blame for any shutdown.
It also creates peculiar consequences in the 2016 presidential race as well.
It combines two delicate political issues of immigration reform and a government shutdown into one package and places more moderate GOP hopefuls in a bind.
Do they want to let what Republicans universally believe is an unconstitutional executive order by the Obama administration stand or do they want to be put in a position of cutting funding to the DHS in the aftermath of a wave of Islamist terror attacks against American allies and interests.
The result is a familiar dysfunction.
Democrats won’t yield on Obama’s executive orders—a move that would risk undermining one of the most important actions of the president’s second term and lead to the potential deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.
Republicans can’t alienate their conservative base yet again by compromising on what has become such a point of principle.
This latest episode might frustrating in the short term but, like the last shutdown, it has a predictable end:
It’s not a question of whether Republicans will cave and fund the DHS, but when.
By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2015
“A Lesson Not Learned”: There’s Another Shutdown Fight In Washington. Republicans Will Lose This One, Too
Congressional Republicans are in a tough spot. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires on February 27, but conservatives are demanding that any DHS funding bill also block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. That’s unacceptable to Senate Democrats, who filibustered the legislation three times last week.
And now we’re stuck. Some Republican senators are urging their House colleagues to accept a “clean” funding bill that doesn’t block Obama’s unilateral actions, but that’s unacceptable to House Republicans. “The House did its job,” Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. “Now it’s time for the Senate to do their work.” No one is quite sure how this will end. “I guess the lesson learned is don’t put yourself in a box you can’t figure out a way to get out of,” Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said.
The exact outcome may be unpredictable, but this impasse wasn’t.
Think back two months ago, when Congress needed to reach an agreement to fund the entire government. Conservatives were still seething at the president for taking executive action on immigration and wanted to use the government funding deadline as leverage to enact concessions from Obama. Republican leadership, on the other hand, was terrified that another government shutdown would be a political disaster for the GOP, just as they regained full control over Congress. And, they argued, Republicans would have more leverage in the 114th Congress, having won the Senate in November. The compromise was to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal year—with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which was funded only until February 27.
Conservatives weren’t happy with the deal, but Boehner’s job was safe. More importantly, the Republican leadership had limited the political downside of a potential shutdown. Now, it wouldn’t be a full government shutdown, just one department. Given the Tea Party’s fury at Obama, that was a huge victory for Boehner.
But even though the current impasse was the best case scenario for Republicans, they still are in a tough position. The practical effects of a DHS shutdown are relatively minor, since most of DHS’s employees are classified as essential and thus would continue to work in the case of a shutdown. But the political implications of it are much worse. Obama can criticize the GOP for putting the U.S.’s national security at risk. “I can think of few more effective ways for Republicans to re-surrender national security as an issue to Obama than by taking the Department of Homeland Security hostage like this,” The New Republic’s Brian Beutler wrote in December. And that’s exactly what Obama has done in recent weeks. As February 27 approaches, Obama and other Democrats will only amplify that message.
Republicans are already trying to avoid blame for a DHS shutdown. “If there’s a shutdown, it wouldn’t be because of us,” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Tuesday. “The Democrats are filibustering it. I don’t know how we get blamed for that this time.” Hatch is right—Democrats did filibuster the House-passed legislation on three separate occasions. But Republicans will probably take the blame. That’s how the politics of the filibuster work. The minority uses it to obstruct legislation and the majority takes the blame. Americans know that Republicans control both chambers of Congress. They aren’t paying attention to parliamentarian rules.
In all likelihood, this will end the same way every funding fight ends these days: Republican leadership will eventually bring up a clean bill and it will pass with mostly Democratic votes. That’s long been the GOP game plan. It’s also possible that Republican leadership will see this fight, with its relatively small stakes, as a good opportunity to build credibility with the Tea Party by standing up to Obama and refusing to pass a clean bill.
Neither of those outcomes are good for the GOP. But this is what happens when one ideological group has outsized control over a party and wants to pick funding fights that they are certain to lose.
By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, February 12, 2015
Conventional wisdom is malleable, and it appears that conventional wisdom on the wisdom of shutting down the government is shifting, at least within the Republican party. While the old CW was that it was a terrible idea that Republicans suffered for, and it would be foolish to do it again, the new CW seems to be, “Hey, didn’t we shut down the government and win the next election?”
The other day, influential conservative journalist Byron York began pushing this line, writing that the 2013 shutdown “so deeply damaged GOP prospects that Republicans exceeded expectations in 2014, winning control of the Senate in spectacular fashion and making unexpected gains in the House.” And now, as Dave Weigel reports, Republicans are taking it up:
In [conservative] circles, it’s clear that the president can be stared down on immigration. And it’s clear that a fight, even if it led to shutdown, would be either rewarded or forgotten by voters when they returned to the polling booths in November 2016. The reality of the Affordable Care Act had, after all, ended up winning elections for them in 2014. Why wouldn’t the reality of Obama’s new blunders elect the Republicans of 2016?
It’s all deeply frustrating to Democrats. Virginia Representative Gerry Connolly, whose district’s contractors and federal employees recoiled at the shutdown, had subsequently watched his state reelect its Republican congressmen and nearly knock off its popular Democratic senator. There clearly was no shutdown hangover for Republicans.
“From their point of view, frankly, while it had a temporary impact on their polling numbers, they fully recovered from that and paid no price at all on Nov. 4,” said Connolly as he headed into a vote. “Politicians are all Pavlovian at a very elemental level. What’s rewarded, what’s punished. They look at that, and they think it seems to have been rewarded. It certainly wasn’t punished.”
This is entirely true. Approval of the Republican party took a nose dive in the wake of the shutdown, and though it is still viewed negatively by most Americans, that didn’t stop Republicans from having a great election day. Because as at least some within the GOP understand, you can create chaos and crisis, and large numbers of voters will conclude not that Republicans are bent on creating chaos and crisis but that “Washington” is broken, and the way to fix it is to elect the people who aren’t in the president’s party. That in this case that happened to be precisely the people who broke it escaped many voters. The fact that the electorate skewed so heavily Republican in an election with the lowest turnout since 1942 also helped them escape the consequences of their behavior.
One of the things that interests me here is Weigel’s observation, which I’ve heard from others before, that conservatives believe “that the president can be stared down on immigration.” The fact that they’ve lost these showdowns again and again doesn’t seem to register. They simultaneously believe that Barack Obama is a tyrant in the grip of a mad obsession to destroy America, and that he’s a wimp who will back down if they show some spine.
If that’s what you think, a shutdown becomes a win-win scenario. If you threaten to shut the government down and Obama relents, then you’ve won. If he doesn’t relent and the government does shut down, you’ll win anyway, because that’s what happened before.
It now looks like Obama is going to announce his new immigration policy this week, at which point Republicans will freak out. And we may be seeing the front end of an evolution in their thinking, not just from “Shutting down the government would be bad for us” to “We could shut down the government and be just fine,” but from there all the way to “Shutting down the government would be genius.” Just you wait.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 19, 2014
Senator Mitch McConnell said yesterday that he would not shut down the government, over immigration or anything else, after he takes over as Majority Leader in January. On the same day, Speaker John Boehner refused to rule out a shutdown. Both were being deceptive, but Mr. McConnell, as usual, was a little more clever about it.
The House produced last year’s government shutdown when it insisted on attaching the repeal of various parts of the Affordable Care Act to spending bills necessary to keep the government open. That was a huge embarrassment for Mr. Boehner, making his caucus appear feral and ungovernable, and he has no desire to repeat it.
But his newly expanded Republican majority actually is a bit wilder than the outgoing one, and it is inflamed by President Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration by sparing up to 5 million people from deportation. Some on the far right want to pass no spending bills if the president takes action; others, as National Review reported, want to shut down only specific departments, like Homeland Security (which includes Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
Mr. Boehner is playing his customary game of appearing provocative in public, to keep his most extreme members at bay, while trying to cut some kind of deal in private. But if he or his members think a shutdown of the Homeland Security department is going to work, they’re kidding themselves. During the last shutdown, most of the department stayed open, in part because many of its functions are considered essential and are funded by fees rather than Congressional appropriations. To have any real leverage, House Republicans would have to threaten to shut down more than that.
Mr. McConnell wants his chamber to appear reasonable and governable in contrast to the House, and likes to portray himself as the leader who averts shutdowns. But he’s the one who has already threatened to use spending bills to stop any environmental regulations that might restrict the burning of coal, which is the same as a shutdown threat.
His plans are evident in the exact wording of his statement yesterday: “We’ll not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the national debt.” But if he can pin the shutdown on the president, then he can claim he wasn’t the one who closed the government’s doors. During the last shutdown, the spending bills never reached the president’s desk for a veto, because the House’s demands were rejected by the Senate, and everything was blamed on “Congressional gridlock.” With Republican control of both chambers, things will be different, and a shutdown remains very much on the table.
By: David Firestone, Taking Note,The Editorial Page Editors Blog; The New York Times, November 14, 2014