Clint Eastwood’s empty chair has a message for House Republicans: “Make my day.”

Some House Republicans are under the mistaken impression that they have a gun to President Obama’s head with their threat to deny funding to the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to roll back his illegal executive action on immigration. In fact, they are pointing a gun at their own heads, warning Obama that they’ll pull the trigger if he does not capitulate. Obama is telling them to fire away.

Republicans have no leverage in this fight.

Obama does not care if Republicans partially shut down DHS. Indeed, he would be thrilled if they did, so he can blame them for putting the United States’ security at risk. Thanks to Obama’s policies, the terrorist threat is greater than at any time since the period leading up to Sept. 11, 2001. Last week, Obama’s own director of national intelligence, James Clapper, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “When the final accounting is done, 2014 will have been the most lethal year for global terrorism in the 45 years [since] such data has been compiled.” Do Republicans really want to shut down DHS and be left holding the bag for Obama’s disastrous policies? Republicans should be making the case that Obama has made the world more dangerous — not handing Obama a pretext to paint the GOP as endangering our national security.

Moreover, having this fight right now is pointless. A federal judge in Texas has temporarily blocked Obama from implementing his executive action. The conservative-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is expected to hear the Obama administration’s appeal in the coming weeks. So the answer for congressional Republicans should be obvious: Pass a short-term funding bill and see whether the courts rescue them from their ill-fated DHS strategy.

Oh wait, that is precisely what House Speaker John Boehner tried to do. With a shutdown looming, Boehner put forward a bill to fund the agency for three weeks. This would have given the court time to act. It would have given the House and Senate time to negotiate. And it would have prevented the DHS fight from distracting from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday. A no-brainer, right?

Not for 52 House Republicans, who voted against Boehner’s reasonable solution, killing the temporary funding bill. When Boehner then put forward a one-week extension, this time 55 members of the GOP’s all-or-nothing caucus voted no on that as well. The only thing they accomplished was to effectively put Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in charge of the House again.

Now news reports indicate that some Republicans are so mad at Boehner that they are talking about ousting him as speaker. For what? Being insufficiently suicidal?

They have placed Boehner in an unwinnable situation and are mad because he is trying to navigate it intelligently. The fact is there is no way for Republicans to win this fight unless the courts bail them out. The only winning strategy is for the GOP to buy time for the courts to reverse Obama’s unlawful action on immigration, just as they reversed his unlawful recess appointments last year.

Conservatives are right that it is pathetic that we need to rely on the courts to check Obama’s lawlessness. There was a time when members of both parties would have united to defend the constitutional prerogatives of Congress. Today, just eight members of the Senate Democratic caucus are on record opposing Obama’s executive action on immigration, and only four of those didn’t filibuster a stand-alone bill sponsored by moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to block it.

Conservatives also are right to be angry that Senate Democrats are obstructing debate — blocking the possibility of amendments and even preventing the House and Senate from going to conference to resolve differences — while Republicans get blamed in the media.

The sad truth is that so long as Democrats are willing to put partisanship ahead of principle, the GOP will not have the votes to force Obama’s hand. Conservatives need to recognize this reality and put the blame where it belongs — with Senate Democrats, not John Boehner.

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