It’s looking increasingly like the Great and Glorious GOP Struggle Against Obama Lawlessness will end with Republicans agreeing to cleanly fund the Department of Homeland Security, with the fate of the President’s executive deportation relief left to the courts to decide. If so, conservatives will rage at GOP leaders for caving.
But it’s still possible this whole saga could have a messy ending for Democrats, too. In particular, immigration advocates are worried that ultimately, Obama may end up having to veto a Republican measure rolling back his actions, which could make things messier politically than they had hoped.
Today Senate Republicans are moving towards a final vote on a bill cleanly funding Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year. They will also seek to begin debate on a companion proposal that would roll back Obama’s most recent actions temporarily shielding millions from deportation.
Meanwhile, House GOP leaders are still unwilling to vote on any clean funding bill that comes out of the Senate, and instead they are moving towards a vote on a stopgap measure that would only fund Homeland Security for three weeks. The strategy appears to be to try to force conference negotiations, at which Republicans could take another whack at Obama’s actions. Senate Democrats could probably filibuster anything that comes out of those talks, but the theory is that delay might pressure moderate Dems to peel off and support some kind of conference “compromise” rollback of Obama’s actions. Even if that happened, Obama could veto the result. This whole strategy seems like a long shot; the more likely ending is that Speaker John Boehner ends up passing clean long term funding with Democratic help.
But the Senate Dem moderates still bear watching. Here’s why: Even if Homeland Security is funded cleanly through the fiscal year by both chambers, there will still be a Senate vote on the separate measure rolling back Obama’s 2014 executive actions, which would remove protection from millions, but not from DREAMers. And it’s not impossible that enough moderate Dem Senators — Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly, Jon Tester, Claire McCaskill come to mind — could support that to get it past a Dem filibuster, requiring a veto.
Obviously if this all happened, Democrats would still have won: Homeland Security would have been funded without any Congressional rollback of Obama’s actions (though they could still be blocked by the courts). But Immigration reform advocates worry this scenario could still have a serious political downside. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, tells me:
“Centrist democrats could peel off in large enough numbers to force a presidential veto. That would put a bipartisan patina on the opposition to the president’s executive actions and would send a dispiriting signal to Latino and immigrant voters that the Democratic Party is not united in defense of them. Democrats’ strength in this battle has been their unity. Joining Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz, and Republican opposition would undermine this unity, and undermine the contrast in the eyes of immigrant voters who see Republicans as the enemy and Democrats as their friend, a big advantage for Democrats heading into 2016.”
This would require six Democrats (or perhaps independent Angus King) peeling off to join Republicans, so it probably won’t happen. But it might. If so, Obama would be required to veto a Congressional effort — a sort-of bipartisan one — to roll back his unilateral actions.
* SENATE GOP TO HOUSE: SUCK IT UP ON IMMIGRATION: Senate Republicans appear ready to pass clean DHS funding through the end of the fiscal year, but House Republicans are sticking to their plan of only funding it for three weeks. GOP Senator Mark Kirk tells House Republicans it’s time to face reality:
“As a governing party, we’ve got to fund D.H.S. and say to the House, ‘Here’s a straw so you can suck it up.’ This battle should be the end of the strategy of attaching whatever you’re upset at the president to a vital piece of government.”
But conservatives are in no mood to “suck up” Obummer’s Lawlessness, so the glorious struggle will continue. Notable: Kirk is up for reelection next year in Illinois; you have to figure a number of other 2016 GOP Senators facing reelection in Obama states are not happy about what’s happening.
* HOMELAND SECURITY SHUTDOWN COULD HAVE REAL IMPACT: The Post’s Jerry Markon has a detailed look at what a Homeland Security shutdown could really entail. While it’s true that essential DHS personnel will still protect the president and the borders and screen airplane passengers, this will also happen:
At DHS facilities in Washington, employees who manage large federal contracts, monitor cyber threats and give grants to local police departments will be sent home, according to current and former DHS officials. If there is a terrorist attack or natural disaster, the effect will be magnified and the government’s response slowed, they said. And although about 85 percent of DHS’s roughly 240,000-strong workforce will remain on the job, most employees will work without their biweekly paychecks.
This should make for some interesting network news coverage…
* DEMS REVOLT AGAINST OBAMA WAR POWERS REQUEST: The Hill talks to a number of Congressional Democrats and finds that the administration is failing to assuage their concerns about the vagueness and broadness of Obama’s request for war authorization against ISIS. With Republicans complaining that his proposed Authorization of Use of Military Force is too constraining of his warmaking authority — and of that of the next president, who could be a Republican — it’s looking unlikely that Congress will agree to any kind of authorization.
Of course, the administration can keep claiming (absurdly) that the 2001 AUMF gives Obama the authority to keep the war going, so what’s the problem?
* GROWTH SLOWED IN LATE 2014: Reuters reports:
U.S. economic growth braked more sharply than initially thought in the fourth quarter amid a slow pace of stock accumulation by businesses and a wider trade deficit, but the underlying fundamentals remaind solid. Gross domestic product expanded at a 2.2 percent annual pace, revised down from the 2.6 percent pace estimated last month, the Commerce Department said on Friday. The economy grew at a 5 percent rate in the third quarter.
After the news broke of the good third quarter growth, Mitch McConnell suggested it might have something to do with the incoming GOP Congress. Meanwhile, the slowdown is obviously Obummer’s fault.
* RUBIO GROPES FOR WAY OUT ON IMMIGRATION: In an interview with David Drucker, Senator Marco Rubio, who appears to be running for president, confirmed that the only way he can support any form of legalization for the 11 million is if Congress passes legislation securing the border first. Rubio previously championed an immigration compromise that bolstered border security while simultaneously putting undocumented immigrants on a long, conditions-laden path to citizenship.
This suggests that in the context of GOP presidential primary politics, embracing the general outlines of any such compromise is probably politically lethal. The question now is how the GOP contenders will seek to differentiate themselves from one another on this issue within those constraints.
* JEB BUSH TO FACE CONSERVATIVE ANGER AT CPAC: Jeb Bush is set to address the Conservative Political Action Conference today, and Bloomberg reports that he is going to face protests from conservatives angry with his embrace of Common Core educational standards and immigration reform.
Worth watching: How Bush attempts to explain his views on immigration to this particular crowd. Will he really make good on his previous suggestion that he doesn’t see a need to pander to the far right, and has his eye on a general election audience?
* MORE MUST-READING ON SUPREME COURT AND OBAMACARE: Yale law professor Abbe Gluck explains why the states who are siding with the government are right to argue that a decision against the law would be a blow to their rights, i.e., to states’ rights.
And Georgia State University professor Eric Segall explains how a plain reading of the text of the ACA actually supports the government’s interpretation of the disputed phrase. Of course, Segall is reading more than five words of the text, so his argument obviously doesn’t count.