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March 3 2015

The GOP’s Keystone Kops Routine

Rachel DiCarlo Currie


It appears almost certain that the DHS/executive-amnesty standoff will end badly for Republicans. Either the House will pass a “clean” long-term DHS funding bill before the next deadline (Friday at midnight), or it will pass one soon thereafter. GOP leaders have shown they are unwilling to allow a partial DHS shutdown (even if such a shutdown would be largely symbolic), and they cannot count on Nancy Pelosi to keep bailing them out with short-term extensions.

Thus, Republicans have once again blundered their way into a worst-case scenario: They are poised to lose the political fight without achieving anything substantive. Their pending failure reflects a strategic deficit. As Politico reports: “In multiple interviews in recent days with party leaders and senior aides, it’s clear the GOP had no real strategy to successfully end the party’s first major standoff with Obama since taking power in January.”

This is truly bewildering. It has long been apparent (a) that Senate Democrats would filibuster the GOP’s original DHS/anti-amnesty legislation, and (b) that Republicans would eventually get skittish about a partial DHS shutdown. In other words, the strategy Republicans chose was bound to fail.

What would’ve been a better strategy? The one advocated by National Review’s editors back in mid-January:

Pass one bill to fund all of DHS except for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is responsible for implementing the president’s amnesty, and another bill that funds CIS but prohibits it from implementing the November amnesty.

The pressure will be on the president to sign the DHS funding bill, and a protracted fight over CIS funding carries little downside for Republicans and Democrats who oppose the president’s order. The agency receives enough in fees to perform almost all its activities without congressional appropriations. This strategy would permit Republicans to avoid complicity in an unconstitutional policy and might make the president pay a political price for blocking a bill that would tell immigration officers to do their jobs rather than implement amnesty.

Unlike the strategy Republicans chose, the NR plan would’ve maximized their leverage and put Democrats in a genuinely difficult position. It would’ve been hard for Senate Democrats to filibuster, or for President Obama to veto, clean legislation that funded virtually all of DHS. In addition, by focusing solely on the November 2014 amnesty, which is by far the most controversial of Obama’s unilateral immigration policies, Republicans would’ve increased the pressure on red-state Democrats such as Senators Joe Donnelly (Indiana), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Joe Manchin (West Virginia), and Claire McCaskill (Missouri). As for CIS funding, a partial shutdown of the federal immigration bureaucracy would be much easier to defend, both practically and politically, than a partial shutdown of the entire Homeland Security agency.

To be sure, the courts may wind up tossing out Obama’s November 2014 amnesty, which would render this debate moot. (U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s recent injunction was certainly encouraging.) But in the meantime, if Republicans really do believe that Obama’s policy has triggered a constitutional crisis, they have an obligation to seek its reversal. So far, their strategic planning has been awful.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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