There Is No Partial Surrender On DHS Funding

Conn Carroll
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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 10:30 AM
There Is No Partial Surrender On DHS Funding

National Review and Karl Rove both came out with columns Thursday, offering congressional Republicans advice on how to handle their impending showdown with the White House and Senate Democrats over funding President Obama's executive amnesty.

Both National Review and Rove make the case that Republicans will lose the public relations battle if the Department of Homeland Security is not funded by the end of February. Both urge Republicans to narrow their focus to Obama's more recent Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program.

Unfortunately both also don't seem to understand the Democrats' strategy on the standoff.

Here is Rove's plan:

Republicans can now offer a rider that refuses funds for executing Mr. Obama’s directive that is under court challenge, dropping the other add-ons the shutdown caucus insisted on. This would remove the excuse of Senate Democrats skeptical of Mr. Obama’s directive. Either they act on their concerns or go on record supporting the president’s unconstitutional action.

For Republicans, this would be a chance to make their point on an issue where voters agree the president overstepped his authority. It would also give momentum to the legal challenge by indicating there is bipartisan support for reversing it.

Rove seems to be arguing that House Republicans should pass a second DHS funding bill, one that only defunds Obama's November DACA program. And, indeed, not only did the anti-DAPA amendment get more votes in the House than the anti-DACA amendment, but moderate Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has endorsed a DHS funding compromise that just targets the new DAPA program.

The problem with this strategy is that Senate Democrats would filibuster this new DHS funding bill just as vehemently as they are filibustering the current House bill. All such a new House bill would do is show Democrats that momentum is on their side and that if they wait long enough, they will get the "clean" DHS bill they want. Republicans would have solved nothing and they would be in a weaker negotiating position.

National Review also focuses on DAPA but throws in a new wrinkle:

The House can offer to fund most of DHS in one bill, and the federal immigration bureaucracy, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in another, with the latter bill blocking the president’s November amnesty. This would narrow the debate and make it much harder for Democrats to argue that the Republican plan is inappropriate or risky.

Under this strategy, the House would pass two new separate DHS funding bills: 1) a bill that funds the USCIS, the agency in charge of implementing DAPA, but that defunds DAPA; and 2) a "clean" bill for the rest of DHS.

No doubt, Senate Democrats would pocket Republicans' concession here and pass the clean DHS funding bill and Obama would quickly sign it into law. 

But what would this solve? 

The USCIS would still be facing a shutdown. True, 95 percent of all USCIS workers would still go to work under a USCIS shutdown because the agency is funded through application fees, but some key services would still stop, including the E-Verify system that is key to making sure businesses don't hire illegal immigrants. And Democrats would still be able to say that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) broke his promise to avoid any government shutdowns.

There is no creative way out for Republicans. Either they stick to their guns and demand that Democrats allow for debate on the House DHS funding bill (at which point Collins can offer an amendment narrowing the defunding to DAPA), or the House should rip off the band-aid, admit they don't have the will to check the executive branch through the power of the purse, and pass a full clean DHS funding bill.

The only thing worse then congressional Republicans failing to fulfill their oath to protect the Constitution's separation of powers, would be lie about why they were really doing.