Boehner: Blame Senate Dems if DHS shuts down

Speaker of the House John Boehner told Fox News on Sunday that he would be willing to see the Department of Homeland Security shut down over the budget dispute currently roiling the Senate.

For weeks, Boehner had been toying with House conservatives by not committing himself to support a DHS shut down. In fact, he preferred to avoid a shut down if possible.

But with Democrats filibustering every attempt to pass a DHS funding bill, Boehner is making clear the ball is in the Senate's court and that if a shut down occurs, the fault will be with the minority party.

Associated Press:

House Speaker John Boehner is raising the possibility that the Department of Homeland Security may shut down at month's end because of a budget impasse, and he's blaming Senate Democrats if that happens.

Democrats responded by saying responsibility would fall on the Ohio Republican and the country would suffer from the needless closing of a vital part of government.

The department is caught up in a fight over President Barack Obama's immigration actions, with Feb. 27 as the date when the $40 billion budget would shut off.

A House-passed bill would cover the department through Sept. 30, the end of the current budget year, and overturn Obama's move to limit deportations for millions of immigrants who are in the United States illegally.

But in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has declared a stalemate and urged the House to make the next move. Senate Democrats, while in the minority, have been able to block action on the bill in protest of the Republican language on immigration.

Asked what if the department funding were to run out, Boehner said, "Well, then, Senate Democrats should be to blame. Very simply."

He then told "Fox News Sunday," when asked if he were prepared to let that happen, "Certainly. The House has acted. We've done our job."

Democrats pounced.

In linking immigration and the budget, Boehner "knew exactly what he was doing," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

If Boehner persists, Schumer said, "he will be responsible for shutting down a large part of the government, the American people will perceive it that way, and his party and the country will suffer for it."

Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, said there are enough votes in the House now to pass legislation without the immigration provisions "if only Speaker Boehner will get out of the way."

McConnell is stuck with his "no DHS shutdown" pledge, but even he wouldn't dream of cutting the legs from underneath House conservatives by removing the language that repeals most of the president's executive actions on immigration in order to get  a funding bill passed. Conservatives would be livid because Boehner - at the moment - is right. If Republicans play out this scenario and hit the propaganda nail on the head, blame for a DHS shutdown would fall on Democrats and President Obama.

The president's immigration actions may have a slight majority support in the country. But the means by which he achieved these reforms does not. Americans oppose Obama's executive power grab and would like to see the issue resolved by Congress.

It will take some skill in messaging to make that case through the prism of media bias - the majority of whom will find some way to blame the GOP for a DHS shutdown. But this is different than the government shut down two years ago. This won't be seen as a fit of pique by some conservatives opposed to Obamacare. This is a bread and butter issue for Americans from both parties who oppose Obama's use of his executive authority to bypass Congress. The battle can be won if the Republicans can get their PR act together.

Unfortunately, neither Boehner nor McConnell have shown any skill at this game in the past. But it won't work at all of McConnell abandons the House and acts on his own to pass a DHS funding bill. Senate Republicans should work to stiffen McConnell's spine as the February 28 deadline for DHS funding draws closer.

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