House passes 'clean' DHS funding bill

“If we aren’t going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”

Good question, Rep. Matt Salmon.  The congressman is wondering when Republicans are going to show some spine after meekly acquiescing to Democratic demands that the DHS funding bill be stripped of the amendment defunding President Obama's executive orders.  The measure, which would fund the Department of Homeland Security – including the immigration executive orders – through September 30, passed the House yesterday.

The tally: 257-167, with all 167 "no" votes coming from Republicans.  Only 75 voted in the affirmative.  All 182 Democrats supported the bill.

The Hill:

The $40 billion bill keeps the DHS funded through the fiscal year, ending Sept. 30, but is stripped of GOP-favored provisions aimed at halting Obama’s controversial executive actions on immigration. The so-called clean funding bill had passed the Senate earlier; it now goes to Obama, who has already vowed to sign it.
Supporters cheered the move, saying it would finally let the GOP move on to its agenda.
“I’ve said all along we need to govern responsibly, and this is an important step,” said freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who had spent weeks urging his former House colleagues to back a clean funding bill.
The DHS fight exposed deep fissures between House Republicans, who wanted to take a more aggressive stance, and Senate Republicans, who argued early on that Obama had a stronger hand in the standoff and would ultimately prevail.
Conservatives said they weren’t surprised Boehner capitulated to Democrats. But they still voiced frustration that GOP leaders hadn’t put up a stronger fight in Congress.
“I believe this is a sad day for America,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) said on the House floor during a vigorous debate before the vote. “If we aren’t going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”
The Speaker spelled out his plans — and the political reality — in a GOP caucus meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Tuesday. He told rank-and-file members the House had voted to fund the DHS and stop Obama’s executive actions but that Senate Democrats repeatedly had blocked the bill from moving forward, according to a source in the room.
It’s unlikely another short-term measure could have passed Congress, Boehner said. And shutting down the nation’s top agency charged with fighting domestic terror was out of the question.
“With more active threats coming into the homeland, I don’t believe that’s an option,” Boehner told his members. “Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States.”
Republicans’ best shot to stop Obama’s immigration policies, Boehner explained, is now in the courts. A federal judge from Texas has temporarily halted the policies from taking effect, ruling that the president’s actions violated federal law. The administration has appealed.
That's a pretty thin reed on which Boehner is hanging his hopes.  The suit by 26 states against the immigration orders is far from being decided, and the injunction against implementing the orders could be overturned by another court at any time.  By the time it gets to the Supreme Court, the plan could be fully implemented, and trying to overturn it would be fruitless.
Most conservatives expected the cave-in, so this didn't come as a surprise.  But what the vote showed is something more troubling: Boehner has broken his pledge not to bring a bill to floor without majority support in the GOP caucus.  His willingness to make common cause with Democrats on this issue raises concerns that he may try something similar on other votes where conservatives oppose him.  There will be a debt celing vote in the fall, and one wonders if Boehner will try to wring spending concessions from the Democrats or cave in to their demand that the debt vote also be "clean."
For the DHS funding bill, there was no strategy, no unified message; Republicans were all over the place on trying to oppose the executive orders.  With Republicans so divided, the Democrats found their task easy as they spoke with one voice – and loudly – in blaming Republicans for the impasse.
Strategy is the responsibility of the leadership.  And it's clear that Boehner and his allies didn't have a clue on how to win this one.