With Republicans struggling to find a way out of the mess they created by linking Department of Homeland Security funding to their effort to roll back President Obama’s deportation relief, Mitch McConnell has hatched a new scheme: Two votes, one nixing some of the President’s actions; and the other funding DHS.
Conservatives are already denouncing this move as “surrender.” That’s because it basically forgoes the use of DHS funding as direct leverage over the executive actions. Because of this, it’s unclear whether House Republicans — who have already passed a measure funding DHS while defunding Obama’s deportation policies — will accept it. But the move towards splitting the vote in two suggests Republican leaders probably see this as their only way out.
Indeed, more GOP Senators are essentially calling on the leadership to give up, and they are suggesting that Republicans have easy cover to do so: Now that a Texas judge has temporarily blocked Obama’s actions, Republicans can go ahead and fund Homeland Security while the courts stop Obama’s lawlessness. Here’s Senator Susan Collins of Maine:
“I’ve always thought the judicial system was an alternative way to deal with the president’s overreach last November, and now that one court has ruled to put a stay on his executive order, perhaps that frees us to go forward and get the department fully funded.”
And here’s Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, suggesting Republicans cleanly fund DHS in the short term, while waiting to see what happens when the Texas judge’s injunction on Obama’s actions comes up for appeal before the Fifth Circuit:
“We need to figure out a way to get it funded, and my guess is that will occur,” Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday. He suggested that a short-term bill keeping funding at 2014 levels for a couple of months will be approved to allow some of the legal process in Texas to play out.
But this may not work. Here’s why: We don’t know when the Fifth Circuit will issue a final decision as to whether Obama’s actions can go forward. The Texas judge who has temporarily blocked Obama’s actions has not even issued a final ruling yet. If the Texas judge’s final ruling does end up blocking the actions, the Fifth Circuit — to which the Obama administration is appealing — might not decide whether that ruling stands for several months.
Thus, that would appear to leave Republicans in the position of passing short term clean funding for DHS, and hoping the Texas judge issues a final ruling declaring Obama’s actions unconstitutional, and hoping that the Fifth Circuit upholds that ruling — all before the short term funding runs out. What happens if the Fifth Circuit sides with the government? What do Republicans do then?
All of this highlights the broader problem here, which is that GOP leaders kept alive the idea for far too long that the DHS funding fight could be used as leverage against Obama’s executive actions. As long as that idea is kept alive, then conservatives are right to call any splitting of the two “surrender.” Either Republican leaders are prepared to go all the way in using DHS funding as leverage to force Obama to relinquish his deportation relief, or they aren’t. It’s looking increasingly like they aren’t — and, judging by their own public statements, never were — which means Republicans were always going to have to get conservatives angry at some point in this process.
UPDATE: A quick clarifying point: If Republicans do split the vote into two votes, the one blocking Obama’s actions would be filibustered by Democrats (0r vetoed by Obama), and the one cleanly funding DHS would pass. Thus, DHS funding would no longer be available as leverage over Obama’s actions, something conservatives don’t want to happen, given that the court battle’s resolution is uncertain.
* SHUTDOWN OF HOMELAND SECURITY WOULD HAVE DAMAGING IMPACT: Some have suggested that even if Homeland Security shuts down, essential personnel will still report to work. But in a scathing editorial denouncing the GOP’s shutdown antics, the Post explains:
Even with most employees continuing to report to work, the shutdown would have damaging effects. Training programs and federal grants to state and local law enforcement agencies would be immediately curtailed, as would video surveillance of border areas of the Rio Grande Valley, which GOP lawmakers regularly denounce as porous. Funding for the Secret Service, widely regarded as in need of upgrades, would be curtailed, and most workers at FEMA would be sent home…Making [DHS] a whipping boy for Republican dyspepsia at Mr. Obama’s immigration policy risks further debilitating the department.
That should make for some interesting evening news stories!
* STANDING QUESTIONS INTENSIFY IN ANTI-OBAMACARE LAWSUIT: Now the New York Times weighs in: Adam Liptak has a great piece that runs through the standing questions that have now arisen around the challengers in the King v. Burwell lawsuit and suggests the Supreme Court should take them seriously, given the Justices’ own previous statements. Here’s Chief Justice John Roberts in 1993 on why standing matters:
“It restricts the right of conservative public interest groups to challenge liberal agency action or inaction,” he wrote, “just as it restricts the right of liberal public interest groups to challenge conservative agency action or inaction.”
This lawsuit is being heavily driven by “conservative public interest groups.” As the piece notes, it is “up to the courts” to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing, so in this case the Court could ask for more info. We’ll know at oral arguments next week whether the Justices are taking the standing questions seriously.
* IN STATES THAT PARTICIPATE, OBAMACARE IS WORKING: New data from Gallup shows that the states that have both expanded Medicaid and set up a state exchange are showing a sharp drop in the uninsured rate:
Collectively, the uninsured rate in states that have chosen to expand Medicaid and set up their own state exchanges or partnerships in the health insurance marketplace declined significantly more last year than the rate in states that did not take these steps. The uninsured rate declined 4.8 points in the 21 states that implemented both of these measures, compared with a 2.7-point drop across the 29 states that have implemented only one or neither of these actions.
Of course, many of those latter states are not in the iron grip of Obamacare Slavery, so they are the real winners here.
* THERE’S NO ‘FIX’ IF SCOTUS GUTS OBAMACARE SUBSIDIES: NBC News’ Perry Bacon reports that neither Congressional Republicans nor GOP governors have any serious intention of participating in a fix the problem if the Supreme Court guts subsidies to millions and unleashes widespread disruptions. This is key:
By not offering any kind of obvious solution, politicians at the national and state level are increasing the impact of a potential Supreme Court decision.
It’s increasingly clear that initial GOP suggestions that there might be a fix were largely designed to create the impression that the impact of a SCOTUS decision against the ACA might not be all that dire, perhaps making such a decision easier. Now the truth is clear. Whether it will matter to the Justices is another question.
* BAD NEWS FOR REPUBLICANS ON OBAMACARE: The Hill reports:
The Senate’s chief referee has dealt a significant setback to conservatives who want to send an ObamaCare repeal bill to the president’s desk this year. GOP sources say Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough has raised red flags in response to queries about whether it’s possible to use a special budgetary procedure to repeal the controversial law “root and branch.”
At issue is whether the process known as “reconciliation” can be used to repeal Obamacare by a simple majority vote. If not, that’s okay, there’s still always the Supreme Court.
* TED CRUZ’S LATEST DON QUIXOTE ACT: The good Texas Senator is now calling on the Senate GOP leadership not to even allow a vote on Loretta Lynch as Attorney General, lest they capitulate to Obama’s lawlessness (Lynch supports the legal underpinnings of Obama’s executive actions on deportations). Hey, Republicans are willing to risk blame for closing down Homeland Security to force maximum deportations, so why not do this, too?
* AND THE QUOTE OF THE DAY, RUBIO-AS-SCOURGE-OF-WALL-STREET EDITION: The Boston Herald reports on GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio’s trip through New Hampshire, where he blasted Hillary Clinton as a darling of Wall Street:
“Ultimately, look, if Hillary Clinton runs for president, she will get more money out of Wall Street than any presidential campaign ever — and that’s a fact. Part of the reason is that many of these industries feel very comfortable with her there.”
There are certainly legitimate questions among Democrats about whether Clinton is too close to Wall Street, but it will be a challenge for Republicans to argue that her policy proposals are more beneficial to Wall Street than theirs are.