After Two Month Stand Off, House Passes Clean DHS Funding Bill

As expected, Republicans have caved in the showdown over funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

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After two months of fighting during which Republicans, led by their most conservative wing yet again, appeared prepared to let the Department of Homeland Security go unfunded due to their dispute with the President over the deportation relief program he announced in November, the House of Representatives has passed a clean funding bill for the department:

WASHINGTON — The House on Tuesday passed a bill that would fund theDepartment of Homeland Security for the rest of the fiscal year, averting a partial shutdown of the agency after weeks of uncertainty, but inflaming conservative lawmakers.

The legislation passed, 257 to 167, with only 75 Republican votes, and it now heads to President Obama’s desk, where he is expected to sign it.

In the vote on Tuesday — an abrupt reversal of position by House Republicans — what started as an uprising by conservative lawmakers ended largely in a resigned whimper, with Speaker John A. Boehnerpushing through a “clean” spending bill over the objections of his more hard-line members, who had hoped to use the measure to fight what they say are Mr. Obama’s unconstitutional executive actions on immigration.

“How did we end up with kind of a slow demise, even after a very hefty kind of rhetoric?” said Representative John Fleming, Republican of Louisiana. “Well apparently that’s the way it’s done around here. I don’t agree with it.”

Mr. Boehner’s decision, surprising in its timing, reduced the potential for the political fallout that Republicans would most likely have faced if the department’s operations were halted in a way that harmed public safety.

In a closed meeting of Republicans, Mr. Boehner told members that he was “as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” according to one person who was in the room, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Mr. Boehner added that he thought the decision was “the right one for this team, and the right one for this country.”

Mr. Boehner’s turnabout came after his leadership team suffered a humiliating setback on Friday, narrowly averting a partial shutdown of the department after his more conservative members revolted against a Republican plan to pass a three-week funding measure.

The House leadership had hoped that the short-term measure would provide it with more time to pressure the Senate to take up a bill that passed the House in January. That measure would have funded the agency but would also have gutted the legal protections that Mr. Obama provided through executive actions to as many as five million undocumented immigrants, including children.

But the backlash against the near shutdown of the agency was swift, with Republicans shouldering the brunt of the criticism — from Democrats, from the news media and even from many in their own party. The Republican leadership — which had promised to govern effectively, without the threat of government shutdowns, after gaining control of both chambers of Congress in the November elections — had now failed its first major governing test, and it realized it needed to move beyond the current fight.

On Tuesday morning, Mr. Boehner presented three possible solutions to his members — a partial shutdown of the agency, another short-term measure that would postpone the fight, or a “clean” funding bill with no immigration provisions. His members quietly accepted a plan for full funding.

No doubt this will not sit will with conservatives and those who have been pushing the leadership in both the House in the Senate to keep up the fight over DHS funding until the Administration relented on the President’s deportation relief program, and indeed there have already been some stirrings online of frustration against John Boehner and the rest of the Republican leadership as a result of this latest development. In reality, though, this result was entirely foreseeable and the showdown strategy’s failure mirrors the failure of similar tactics over the past several years. For one thing, the fact that it was only the budget for one department that was being fought over meant that the opponents of the President’s immigration plan had far less leverage than the GOP had back in October 2013 when they followed Ted Cruz’s lead and used the budget of the entire Federal Government to force concessions over the Affordable Care Act. Given the fact that Republicans quite predictably failed in that effort, it should come as no surprise that a similar effort where the only thing at issue was funding for one department similarly failed. Furthermore, the fact the department in question is the one primarily responsible for domestic security made the Republican case even weaker, especially in the wake of the increased attention being paid to ISIS in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and elsewhere in Europe. Additionally, polling was clearly indicating that the American public was opposed to the GOP’s strategy of using DHS funding to force concessions on immigration even as they largely agree with the idea that the President’s decision to achieve immigration reform via executive action was, at best, questionable. If the Department of Homeland Security did shut down, it would be the GOP that would pay the political price. That’s why is was apparent even last week that Republicans were likely to cave, a process that was made complete on Friday when the House passed a one week extension of the funding bill to allow time for today’s bill to pass.

As I noted there is already speculation on the right that allowing this bill to go forward may have endangered John Boehner in his position as Speaker. No doubt, some of the hard right activists on the right will once again be calling for him, Mitch McConnell and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be removed form office. However, that criticism strikes me as rather ridiculous.  Much like he has in the past, Boehner gave the Do Nothing Caucus in the House their red meat and then actually set about to do the only rational thing that could be done, namely get the DHS funding bill that was ultimately going to become law in any case and do so while minimizing the potential political damage to the GOP.  The idea that the Republicans could have ever won this shutdown showdown is absurd and I’m not exactly sure what anyone actually expects Boehner, McCarthy, and McConnell to have done differently. On some level though, you almost have feel sorry for the Speaker, he’s spent five years bending over backwards to please people who are dedicated to the principle of the perfect being the enemy of the good and he’s still being threatened with the possibility of losing his position. One would hardly blame him if he just decided to call it day at the end of his current term and head back to Ohio while the Tea Party Caucus is left back in Washington trying to figure out how to do the one thing they have shown no intention of doing, governing.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Public Opinion Polls, Tea Party, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Mr. Boehner really is a contemptible creature. Six years in and he still can’t do his job. Is this the example of Republican competence they hope to contrast with Mr. Obama?

  2. sam says:

    You know, you have feel a bit sorry of Boehner. He thought he had been elected as Speaker of the House, only to find out he had been elected as pledge-captain for a political Animal House.

  3. anjin-san says:

    For an empty suit, Obama is doing a pretty good job kicking sand in the GOPs face and walking away with the pretty girl…

  4. C. Clavin says:

    The idea that the Republicans could have ever won this shutdown showdown is absurd and I’m not exactly sure what anyone actually expects Boehner, McCarthy, and McConnell to have done differently.

    Not important.
    You are talking about people who don’t want the EPA to consider science.
    Absurdity is what they do.
    Governing, meh.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    @anjin-san:
    He made Netanyahu look the fool, that’s fer sure.
    Meep, meep.

  6. PJ says:

    Roll Call.

    182 (96.8%) Democrats voted for it.
    75 (30.6%) of Republicans voted for it.

    167 (68.2%) Republicans voted against it.
    No Democrats voted against it.

    I recall hearing about something called the Hastert “rule”?

    I wonder what the reaction would have been if more than two thirds of the Democrats had voted against funding the DHS…

    Democrats are governing while in the minority, a super majority of the Republicans are fighting over who gets to drive their clown car and when and how they should drive over the cliff.

  7. Washington lawyer says:

    The GOP should be focusing on tax provisions, not DHS provisions.

    Even the Texas judge’s order against Obama’s executive actions on immigration didn’t specifically require that anyone be deported, only that President Obama not give illegal immigrants benefits like refundable tax credits (the Administration wants to give illegal immigrants retroactive tax credits of up to $24,000 per household for earned income tax credits, plus thousands more in refundable child tax credits) and not give them social security numbers (which would effectively allow a small percentage of illegal immigrants to illegally vote).

    The GOP should have similarly targeted such payments. Some may be finally doing that. GOP Senators like Chuck Grassley have rightly complained about the Obama administration plans to give billions of dollars in costly tax credits to illegal aliens retroactively:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/federal-eye/wp/2015/03/03/grassley-wants-to-block-so-called-amnesty-bonuses-for-immigrants/

    That would be a more fruitful approach. You can’t deport millions of illegal aliens. But you can make them financially a better deal for citizens by reducing the taxpayer-provided benefits they receive.

  8. Greg says:

    @Washington lawyer:

    (the Administration wants to give illegal immigrants retroactive tax credits of up to $24,000 per household for earned income tax credits, plus thousands more in refundable child tax credits) and not give them social security numbers (which would effectively allow a small percentage of illegal immigrants to illegally vote)

    This is actually debunked, and linked in the same article you linked to (and by the same publication even)
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/02/20/lawmaker-bungles-immigration-facts-at-town-hall-meeting/

  9. LaMont says:

    Yet another prime illustration that even though Republicans control the House, Democrats are yet directly responsible for holding the majority vote on literally every key bill to keep the government operating. Republicans have consistently put up weak numbers on every measure that concerns keeping the government open. In effect, their desire to actually want a government shutdown is on record. Yet, the GOP continue to manufacture crisis after crises on the hope that somehow, someway, the people will ignore all that and blame the Democrats anyway. This is perhaps the most nerve-wrecking thing about what the Republicans are trying to accomplish. It isn’t even good politics.

  10. David M says:

    @Washington lawyer:

    I’m not sure you’ve thought that through all the way and “up to $24,000” isn’t exactly an attempt at an honest conversation. If non-citizens are voting, that’s a problem for the State voter registration offices. How does it hurt anyone if undocumented immigrants who file tax returns, pay FICA and sales taxes, also collect the earned income tax credit? If anything, it’s the federal government subsidizing the local economy in areas with the most undocumented immigrants.

  11. Washington lawyer says:

    @Greg:

    No, the Washington Post fact-checker did not debunk what I said (I specifically said “UP TO $24,000)), but rather confirmed what I said, and instead debunked what a lawmaker claimed (“Gosar claimed that every illegal would get $24,000, when that is the maximum possible.”)

    I did not say “every illegal would get $24,000.” I said an ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD of illegal immigrants might get UP TO $24,000, which is exactly what the Washington Post fact-check said.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Greg:
    I guess you don’t want him handling anything important.

  13. David M says:

    @Washington lawyer:

    A misleading “up to” number isn’t really useful though, is it? It seems like an attempt to slant the numbers and give people the wrong idea of what actually will happen.

  14. Washington lawyer says:

    @David M:

    You don’t seem to understand that I was talking about REFUNDABLE tax credits. You don’t have to pay a nickel in taxes to get a refundable tax credit. That’s why it’s called REFUNDABLE. You can pay no taxes at all, and get $24,000 back in refundable tax credits. Many low-income taxpayers pay little or nothing in federal income taxes (they do, by contrast, pay social security taxes). And most illegal immigrants have fairly modest incomes (although they are rich compared to people in their home countries), so they don’t pay much to begin with in income taxes.

    I agree with you that undocumented immigrant taxpayers should receive things like standard deductions and personal exemptions when they file a tax return, but these are not refundable, so they at least would contribute something in the way of income taxes.

  15. David M says:

    @Washington lawyer:

    I was specifically referring to refundable credits.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    I appreciate a good turn of phrase and ‘deportation relief’ is way up there. Good on ya’, sir.

  17. superdestroyer says:

    I guess the Republicans had decided to signal to the voters of the U.S. that they have no reason to exist. Giving the Obama a 100% win on a major policy issue because they do not want to be called names in the media demonstrates that the U.S. has truly become a one party state.

    There is no way anyone who claims that the Republicans are relevant to policy or governance in the U.S. can be taken seriously now.

  18. Neil Hudelson says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Dude, the time to post your one-party copy and paste was nearly 45 minutes ago up-thread. You’re really starting to drop the ball on this. Gettin’ lazy. Step it back up, man.

  19. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Washington lawyer:

    Hans, is that you? 😀

  20. An Interested Party says:

    And to think that these fools probably think of themselves as the inheritors of the legacy of Reagan and Goldwater…”conservatism” has never looked so ridiculous…

  21. Lenoxus says:

    The idea that the Republicans could have ever won this shutdown showdown is absurd and I’m not exactly sure what anyone actually expects Boehner, McCarthy, and McConnell to have done differently.

    Think “sports movie”. To them, it’s not about winning, it’s about the good fight in the face of the odds. Illegal immigration is just so darned horrible that they have an obligation to fight it on every possible front, etc.

  22. Mu says:

    Boehner should invite Bibi to talk once a week, a lot of stuff gets done in DC when you have a news smokescreen to bury it behind.

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Lenoxus: Yes. Deontology and a Manichaean world view. Almost a definition of conservative.

    However, not entirely true as I suspect many of them are quite consequentialist when it comes to the effect this has on their next potential primary. Isn’t that the constant question? Is Louis Gohmert that dumb, or is he just lying to his base?

  24. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: “Giving the Obama a 100% win on a major policy issue because they do not want to be called names in the media demonstrates that the U.S. has truly become a one party state.”

    But to be fair, Federer beating Djokovic in the Dubai finals also demonstrates that the US has truly become a one party state. Because what doesn’t?

  25. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:

    Is Louis Gohmert that dumb, or is he just lying to his base?

    False dichotomy.
    Louis Gohmert is that dumb, and his constituency is as well.

  26. Ken says:

    @Washington lawyer: I did not say “every illegal would get $24,000.” I said an ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD of illegal immigrants might get UP TO $24,000,

    Indeed, you are correct. Similarly, I bought lunch yesterday at a bodega that might charge UP TO one thousand dollars for a ham sandwich

  27. Ken says:

    @superdestroyer: Giving the Obama a 100% win on a major policy issue because they do not want to be called names in the media demonstrates that the U.S. has truly become a one party state I’m a very good driver. Definitely a very good driver


    Ten minutes to Wapner

  28. stonetools says:

    The sad thing is that we can expect nothing but dysfunction and clown car antics out of the House until the 2020 redistricting. I said somewhere that the 2010 elections was one of the greatest disasters ever to befall American politics, and scarcely a day goes by that the House Republicans don’t prove that.

    I pray for two things:

    1. That the Democrats develop a specific five year plan to not only win in 2020 but to undo the pernicious effects of the 2010 gerrymandering that gave the Republicans a deade long lock on the House.
    2. That no truly existential threat arises in the next five years that would require an intelligent, nonpartisan response from the House. If such a threat arises, it will be time to bend over and kiss our behind goodbye.

  29. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    To be serious, many things could happen to show that the U.S. is not on the pathway to being a one party state. The first would be for the Democrats to lose some of their automatic voters. A second would be for the CBC to come out against comprehensive immigration reform since it is not a good deal for African-Americans. A third would be for the Ed Schultz types in the Democratic Party to come out against comprehensive immigration reform since it does not help to raise the wages of blue collar and middle class Americans. Another could be that Americans finally admit that you can either have public schools with high standards or schools that graduate a high percentage of their students. Another could be for politicians to admit that there are meaningful statistical differences among the different demographic groups of the U.S.

    However, since the trends in the U.S. are exactly the opposite, there is no reason to believe that some green party will start up to the left of the current Democratic Party after the collapse of the Republicans.

    As for immigration, how does a conservative party survive in the U.S. when there will be upwards of 30 million additional automatic Democratic Party voters in 2030 versus today.

  30. superdestroyer says:

    @stonetools:

    In a healthy two party state, both parties would avoid the term “Five Year Plan” because of all of the bad connotations associated with it including genocide. However, given that the Democrats have decided that demographic changes will give them an unbeatable majority, I guess it makes sense that the term “five year plan” would make a come back. Between the Ivy Leaguers who believe they will be the planners and the blocks inside the Democratic Party who believe they will benefit from such a plan without having to pay the costs, I guess it makes sense to use a term associated with Stalin and Mao.

  31. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: Shorter Superdestroyer: “If politicians try to plan for the future, it proves they’re genocidal communists!”

    No wonder you’re a Republican — juding by the way they’re running things, they refuse to plan where to go for lunch at 11:55…

  32. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    No consultant would let any politician in the U.S. use the term “Five Year Plan.” See history for examples of why.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-year_plans_for_the_national_economy_of_the_Soviet_Union

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five-year_plans_of_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China

    And it is hard to say that the Democrats plan for the future when they cheering on the idea that deficits and debt do no matter, that entitlements can be paid for with taxes on the rich, the taxes do not create disincentives, or that the demand for labor is inelastic.

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @wr:
    You don’t have to plan if your answer for everything is the same.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @superdestroyer: The Democrats actually support none of the policies you claim to believe they do.

    I’m a few steps left of the Democratic Party, and I don’t support any of those policies. Even Bernie Sanders, an actual honest to God Socialist, doesn’t believe in any of that.

  35. Gustopher says:

    I think the only reasonable response anyone can have to any of this is either a feeling of angry betrayal, sad resignation, or bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

    I would like to thank the Republicans — I haven’t laughed like this in a while.

  36. Ken says:

    @C. Clavin: You don’t have to plan if your answer for everything is the same.

    I find myself both amused and bemused: I haven’t followed the conversation closely, so I’m not sure whether you are talking about “Tax cuts and deregulation” or “the US is a OnePartyState”