GOP's DHS de-funding gambit for immigration executive orders might be in trouble
The Republican plan to threaten a Homeland Security Department shut down over the funding of Obama's immigration executive orders may have hit a roadblock.
The attacks in Paris make it imperative that DHS keep its doors open. This makes the threat to shut it down an empty one. Not only would it be bad policy if Republicans fail to fund the department, it would be horrible politics as well.
Senate and House Republicans are warning against a standoff with President Obama and Senate Democrats that could shut down the department tasked with protecting the homeland within weeks of terrorist attacks against Western targets.
They worry the GOP could wind up taking the blame, which is what happened when a dispute over implementation of the Affordable Care Act shuttered the federal government for 16 days.
While Republicans are unified in their desire to reverse the executive order Obama issued after Election Day shielding an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, some are warning Tea Party colleagues such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) not to take the fight too far.
“Defunding that part of the bill that deals with enforcing the executive order makes sense but we can’t go too far here because look what happened in Paris. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be up and running,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Former Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) on Friday called it “absolutely essential” that counterterrorism be funded given the spate of attacks around the world.
A Senate GOP aide warned that Democrats would pounce on a departmental shutdown to accuse Republicans of prioritizing the desires of their conservative base over national security.
“There’s no question that if the DHS shuts down in some way, Democrats will do everything to take full advantage of the situation,” the aide said.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said Republicans would lose the public relations battle over homeland security, especially after the deadly attacks on the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
While the immigration executive orders are not popular, holding DHS funding hostage to defunding them isn't going to happen. A likely scenario is that defunding passes the House but fails to get 60 votes in the Senate so that it can be brought to the floor. As the clock ticks down toward closing DHS, Senate Republicans cave in and remove the defunding measure. The bill then goes back to the House where it is approved without defunding the executive orders and sent on to the president.
It was always a dubious strategy to threaten to shut down DHS over the executive orders even if the Paris attacks hand't happened. It would have been too easy for Democrats to demogogue the issue regardless of the heightened terrorist threat. But realistically, it's the only viable strategy the Republicans had after they agreed to fund the rest of the government until September.
As it stands, the GOP just doesn't have the leverage it needs to defund the immigration executive orders.