Poll: GOP Somehow Losing DHS Funding PR Battle

Guy Benson
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Posted: Feb 17, 2015 12:55 PM
Poll: GOP Somehow Losing DHS Funding PR Battle

A new CNN poll shows that the American people are poised to blame Republicans for a partial "shutdown" of the Department of Homeland Security if Congress fails to supply appropriations to the agency prior to funding expiring later this month.  A 53 percent majority would point the finger at the GOP, with 30 percent blaming President Obama, and another 13 percent blaming both sides.  Interestingly, Senate Democrats -- who are the chief obstructionists in this drama -- aren't even listed by CNN's pollster as target for blame:

Republicans in Congress would shoulder the blame for a shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security if they are unable to enact a new spending bill to keep the agency running, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. The survey finds 53% of Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress if the department must shut down, while 30% would blame President Barack Obama. Another 13% say both deserve the blame...A majority says a shutdown at DHS, even if it's just for a few days, would be a crisis or a major problem. Republicans are less likely to see a shutdown as a big problem, 46% say so compared with 66% among Democrats. Among all adults, slightly fewer see a DHS shutdown as a problem or crisis than said so in November when asked about a possible shutdown of the whole government, 55% now vs. 59% in that poll.

Recall that Republicans passed a massive "CRomnibus" federal spending bill at 2014 levels (based on an agreement struck with Democrats before they got waxed at the polls) in order to set up a much narrower fight over Obama's unlawful executive amnesty.  The idea was that with the entirety of the federal government funded through the end of the fiscal year, the GOP would be in better position to force a showdown over a tiny band of money within DHS' budget that's earmarked for implementing Obama's fiat.  Why? Because they would have denied Democrats their usual demagogic bag of "shutdown" tricks, such as yelling about national park closures, Social Security checks being withheld, and payments to the troops being delayed.  This "parade of horribles" is deeply disingenuous on several levels, but has proven effective as a messaging tool.  This time around, Republicans have the overwhelming majority of federal funding already taken care of, a fresh Senate majority, and the public on their side regarding the propriety of the president's power grab (Americans were also against Obamacare during the 2013 shutdown fight, but the shutdown crosswinds were more powerful):


And yet, Congressional Republicans are still on the path to blowing it.  House Republicans passed a DHS funding bill weeks ago.  It would provide money for the agency's entire budget, with microscopic exceptions pertaining to executive actions on immigration.  Senate Democrats have filibustered taking up that bill for consideration on multiple occasions, refusing to allow any debate or amendments on the measure.  Some Republicans believe the House-passed version needs to be narrowed in scope (I agree), and that's what the amendment process is for.  But Harry Reid and company will not permit debate to even begin on the subject.  They've adopted an our-way-or-shut-er-down approach, digging in ideologically, and disregarding the results of the recent elections.  Democrats are the party holding national security funding "hostage" to Obama's immigration decree.  Democrats are the party threatening a shutdown through reflexive, partisan obstructionism.  But Republicans are losing the debate because (a) the public automatically associates government shutdowns with the party that wants to limit government, and (b) the GOP cannot get out of its own way.  The seeds of dysfunction were sown early, when some Republicans openly stated that they'd eventually cave on this issue, tipping their hand to the opposition.

GOP disunity has again boiled over in recent days, with Sen. John McCain leading the charge, serving up soundbytes that have warmed the hearts of Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, while indicating to casual observers (ie, most of the public) that Republican infighting is the true culprit here. I recognize McCain's desire to curtail Washington's governance-by-crisis habit, and the priority he places on ensuring that the national security bureaucracy not suffer any funding interruptions during perilous times. But the president has launched a frontal assault on the separation of powers with his amnesty, setting a terrible precedent on executive overreach.  And he cynically held off on triggering his unpopular, illegal action until after the elections were over, guaranteeing several years of political insulation for his party vis-a-vis the decision.  The president's new policy is bad and unfair on the merits; his machinations are truly dangerous.  The executive amnesty must not be allowed to stand, and Republicans are well within their rights to use the powers of the purse -- decisively entrusted to them by voters -- to block it.  "Shutdown" politics are always going to be complicated and treacherous for the GOP, but they are guaranteed to lose if they can't muster the discipline and moral clarity to stick to their own script.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is telling reporters that he's tried to bring votes up on DHS funding, but upper chamber Democrats have filibustered at every turn (true), so maybe it's time for the House to pass something new.  House Speaker John Boehner counters, correctly, that the House has done its job, so if DHS partially shuts down after February, it'll be because Senate Democrats refuse to "get off their ass" and debate/amend/pass legislation.  McConnell's frustration is understandable, but Boeher is right.  Every single Republican in Washington, from John McCain to Ted Cruz, should be relentlessly making the same points, over and over again:

"House Republicans have voted to fund DHS.  The new Senate Republican majority wants to debate, amend, and pass a DHS funding bill.  But Senate Democrats are filibustering national security funding in order to protect President Obama's illegal executive amnesty, which unilaterally grants legal status, including work papers, to millions of illegal immigrant adults.  Senate Democrats are prioritizing Obama's extreme, rejected political agenda above core national security concerns.  Any disruption in Homeland Security funding will be 100 percent their doing, unless they're finally willing to at least debate a bill.  They can't attack us for "shutting down" DHS while actively and repeatedly refusing to fund DHS.  Tell Democrats to stop playing games with our national security."

Then drop the mic and adhere to those talking points, which have the benefit of being true.  If Republicns really want to make Democrats' lives harder, they should frequently raise the tax credits "amnesty bonus" issue, which tripped up amnesty shill Luis Gutierrez just last week.  A final point: Last night's judicial injunction against the executive amnesty guarantees that the legal fight will proceed past the DHS funding deadline.  Republicans can now argue that a federal judge apparently agrees with Barack Obama's prior stance that he lacks the authority to do what he's since done.  This amnesty action isn't just unfair and wrong-headed, it's been blocked by the courts, pending (numerous) appeals.  The time has come to let the president pursue his power grab through lawsuits and legal action.  Meanwhile, Republicans are committed to fully funding the rest of the Department of Homeland Security's budget.  I'll leave you, once again, with this: