FACED WITH an impending debacle — the suspension of funding for the Department of Homeland Security and its 240,000 employees — the Senate did the sensible thing, voting to keep the department solvent through the remainder of the fiscal year. Then the House of Representatives, where dyspepsia has displaced deliberation as an organizing principle, threw common sense to the winds.
What should have been routine disintegrated into crisis Friday evening because the Republican right flank in the House prefers confrontation — in this case over President Obama’s immigration policies — to compromise. In the end, the best the House could do was to extend the department’s funding by a week, thereby ensuring that the brinkmanship will continue for some or all of this week.
Republican rage over the Mr. Obama’s immigration stance is so out of control that hard-liners would rather subvert key government security agencies under DHS, by attaching poison-pill amendments to kill the president’s policies, than allow the courts to adjudicate the matter.
After all, a federal judge in Texas last month blocked implementation of the very policy that prompted House Republicans to threaten the homeland security budget in the first place: the president’s executive order shielding several million illegal immigrants from deportation and granting them temporary work permits.
The House has become an embarrassing spectacle, and the promises of Republican leaders in both houses to govern without hop-scotching from crisis to crisis have been shredded. Speaker John A. Boehner’s control of the tea party faction in his GOP caucus is so slight he couldn’t even manage a three-week funding extension for DHS, let alone approving a budget through the end of the fiscal year in September.
Now, instead of tackling major legislation, Congress will be paralyzed for more days — and perhaps even longer — as House Republicans continue to insist on measures to reverse Mr. Obama’s immigration moves that have no chance of passage in the Senate, no chance of being signed by the president and no chance of becoming law.
We happen to agree with many Republicans that the president’s executive action was a case of executive overreach. But it is reckless in the extreme to wallow in brinkmanship and imperil a key department of government rather than allow the courts to settle the dispute. And it is certainly not what the American people want, expect or deserve from their lawmakers.
If House Republicans so dislike Mr. Obama’s immigration policy, they have an option that is more responsible and more traditional than forcing a partial government shutdown. They can, as the Senate did in 2013, enact legislation to address the central problem of 11 million undocumented immigrants and an U.S. jobs market that continues to demand more low-skilled labor than can be found among native-born Americans and legal immigrants. It is their failure to do so that has sunk Congress to its current depths.