Today, the House is voting on two measures on the border, in a maneuver designed to get the GOP border bill past conservative opposition. The first vote is on the border bill itself, which includes scaled back funding to address the crisis and changes to the 2008 law to speed deportations — which GOP leaders want. The second vote is to block the expansion of Obama’s deferred deportation programs — which conservatives want.
The plan is to vote on the border bill first, and then, if it passes, to vote on the measure sought by conservatives to block Obama’s Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program — blocking future Obama lawlessness and functionally calling for maximum deportations from the interior.
But several Democrats point out to me that Tea Party conservatives really could get the shaft here — thanks to the GOP strategy of holding both votes separately.
That’s because if both bills pass the House, and are sent over to the Senate, Democrats will toss the second bill on DACA straight into the trash can. Because both would get sent over separately, that allows Democrats to trash the second one, while figuring out what to do with the first. In the event that Senate Dems do pass some version of the House border bill — which Tea Party conservatives oppose — this could happen without the Tea Party conservatives’ desired bill on deportations ever seeing the light of day in the Senate.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson tells me that this is exactly what will happen, emailing this:
“If the House passed the DACA provision, it would go straight into the trash and never get a vote.”
This represents Democrats playing legislative chess. It’s about exacerbating concerns among Tea Partyers that the two-bill structure Republicans are employing could end up leaving them with nothing, even as the GOP leadership gets its way. It’s about deepening the divide between Republicans who want to do nothing at all on the border — who were egged on this morning by Bill Kristol — and GOP leaders who think doing nothing could be politically catastrophic. It’s also about inducing Tea Party conservatives to demand that the two bills be fused.
Indeed, some of them are already raising concerns about the strategy of the two bills being voted on separately, and are insisting that the two bills should be merged into one. In fact, as one Democrat points out to me, Ted Cruz, who is currently insisting on an anti-DACA measure as part of the final package, previously railed during the government shutdown fight against such GOP leadership procedural gimmickry as an effort to hoodwink conservatives.
Here’s where the chess game gets really interesting. If conservatives do balk at the divided-bill structure, and insist on fusing them into one, and sending that over to the Senate, that could give Dems an easier way to kill the whole package — they can simply argue that they won’t vote on something that would maximize deportations, and blame the GOP insistence on the anti-DACA measure for the death of the whole package.
If House Republicans do send over two separate measures, of course, Senate Dems — after deep-sixing the anti-DACA measure — would then face the dilemma of what to do about the House GOP border bill. That won’t be easy for them, particularly if they can’t pass their own border measure.
But either way, it looks like the Tea Party anti-DACA bill, if it passes, will go right on to the trash heap.
UPDATE: And it won’t even get to this point. Because the House GOP leadership just announced that it is shelving its border bill. In a way this was the only way the Tea Party could win here — and it isn’t much of a win, because it may now create the space for Obama to do more on deportations on his own.