Later this morning, House Republicans will meet behind closed doors to decide whether to continue hurtling towards a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. They will discuss Mitch McConnell’s plan to hold two votes — one on funding DHS cleanly, and the other on rolling back President Obama’s executive deportation relief — and House conservatives will insist that GOP leaders must not decouple the two, because that would surrender DHS funding leverage as a tool to block Obama’s lawlessness.

We will then be told that John Boehner just can’t get clean DHS funding through the House. He just can’t do it! It would get conservatives very, very angry! Boehner doesn’t dare pass clean funding with the help of a lot of Democrats, because it would put his Speakership at risk! He can’t do anything. He’s helpless!

But we’ve seen this particular thriller a number of times already. Here’s how it always goes: We are told there’s no way Boehner would ever dare move must-pass legislation with a lot of Democrats.  He’s stuck! Then pressure builds and builds, and Boehner does end up passing something with a lot of Democrats. Last I checked, he’s still Speaker.

We’re hearing that again today. Roll Call quotes several House conservatives hinting that Boehner had best refrain from passing any clean DHS funding, or his gavel is in doubt. Okay. But back in early 2013, the fiscal cliff deal, which allowed some high end Bush tax cuts to expire, passed the House with only 85 Republicans and 172 Democrats, and we were told Boehner’s Speakership was at risk. Similarly, in early 2014, Boehner allowed a clean debt ceiling increase to pass the House with only 28 Republicans voting for it, and we were again told his Speakership was at risk. Does anyone else notice a pattern here?

Now, perhaps this time will really be different. Perhaps Obama’s “amnesty” is so flagrantly lawless in the eyes of Republicans that maybe Boehner would pay a steeper price if he allowed clean DHS funding to pass with Democrats. Either way, we will soon find out. Politico reports:

Several top House Republicans believe the only way a clean funding bill can pass their chamber is if the DHS shuts down and pressure builds for a resolution.

That’s what happened last time, and the time before that, and the “resolution” ended up being that Boehner defied conservatives and allowed Democrats to help him avert the crisis. Perhaps this time isn’t actually different at all, and this is what will happen again.

The fact that Boehner has the mere option of passing clean funding with the help of a lot of Democrats is rarely even mentioned. You can read article after article about this whole showdown and not be informed of that basic fact. Thus, the actual reason we’re stuck in this crisis — Boehner is delaying the moment where he does pass something with Dems for as long as possible — goes oddly unmentioned. Yet recent history suggests that Boehner himself knows this is how it will end, and that all of this drama won’t change the outcome.


* McCONNELL BEGS GOP NOT TO SHUT DOWN HOMELAND SECURITY: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to get his colleagues in the House to agree to hold two separate votes as a way out of the impasse. This quote from him is telling:

“Do you want to fund the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year so we’re fully up and running and capable of dealing with all the threats that we have around the world, including those against us here at home, and would you also like to express your disagreement with the president’s overreach last November?” Mr. McConnell said. “This gives us an opportunity to do both.”

But conservatives don’t want Republicans to merely express disagreement. They want them to do whatever it takes to block Obama’s lawlessness, holding firm until Democrats finally cave (never mind whether that would ever actually happen). It’s telling that McConnell casts this as an avenue for mere expression, though.

 * VULNERABLE GOP SENATORS WORRIED ABOUT HOMELAND SECURITY FIGHT: Politico has an interesting report on a fight behind closed doors between GOP Senators over McConnell’s push for two separate votes:

According to four senators at the lunch session, a frustrated Sen. Jeff Sessions angrily dismissed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan, arguing that his party should be prepared for an all-out battle with Democrats to ratchet up public pressure and force President Barack Obama to drop his immigration policies. But Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican who could face a tough reelection next year, sharply countered that McConnell’s plan was the only option to not hamper law enforcement agencies that rely on money from the Department of Homeland Security.

Which raises a question: How do all the GOP Senators up for re-election in 2016 in states carried by Obama feel about this fight, given that Republicans could take the blame for shutting down Homeland Security, all in the name of forcing maximum deportations?

 * QUOTE OF THE DAY, DEFINITION-OF-INSANITY EDITION: With the GOP Congress heading towards a shutdown, it’s worth recalling this priceless quote from GOP Rep. Charlie Dent:

“Week one, we had a Speaker election that did not go as well as a lot of us would have liked. Week two, we got into a big fight over deporting children, something that a lot of us didn’t want to have a discussion about. Week three, we are now talking about rape and incest and reportable rapes and incest for minors. … I just can’t wait for week four.”

Well, we’re now seeing the fruits of week four, Congressman!

* GOP MULLS SHORT TERM FUNDING FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: Roll Call reminds us that House Republicans do have the option, which they are mulling, of funding DHS in the short term, to buy some time to keep up the fight against Obama’s executive actions.

But, a reminder: If Republicans think that will create enough time for the courts to block the actions and bail them out of this jam, they are probably mistaken.

* BATTLE OVER DEPORTATIONS HEADING TO APPEALS COURT: The Texas District Court judge who temporarily blocked Obama’s executive deportation relief for millions has now signaled that he will likely reject the administration’s request for an emergency stay of his injunction. That’s not surprising, given his previously expressed views on immigration.

Nor does this really change the big picture: This judge has still not issued a final ruling yet on the Constitutionality of Obama’s actions, and presuming he rules against them, we’re then heading to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and we may not know for months whether the executive actions stand.

* WALKER-MENTUM IN IOWA!!! A new Quinnipiac poll finds that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is surging among Iowa Republican caucus goers: He leads the GOP field among them with 25 percent, to 13 percent for Rand Paul and 10 percent for Jeb Bush. The poll was taken from February 16-23, right when the big fracas over Rudy Giuliani’s claim that Obama doesn’t love America (which was made at a Walker event) unfolded.

This obviously didn’t hurt Walker among these voters, 45 percent of whom self-identify as “very conservative” in the poll.


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined an invitation to hold a closed-door session with Democratic senators during his visit to Washington next month, saying such a meeting would “compound the misperception of partisanship” surrounding his planned address to Congress.

Thank goodness for that. Now the speech — which was arranged by House Republicans to undercut a chief Democratic foreign policy objective, a nuclear deal with Iran, with no consultation with Obama — will not have any whiff of partisanship about it whatsoever.