House Speaker John Boehner delivered a floor speech today in support of the Department of Homeland Security funding bill passed by his chamber earlier this afternoon. As Conn explained, the measure fully funds DHS for the remainder of the fiscal year, carving out a specific exception to shut down any appropriations that would be applied to implementing President Obama's unilateral amnesty -- which suspends deportations and grants legal work visas to millions of illegal immigrant adults. Boehner said the House's action was about a principle far greater than partisan wrangling over immigration policy:
"The president’s overreach is an affront to the rule of law and the Constitution itself...We are dealing with a president who has ignored the people, ignored the Constitution, and even his own past statements. In fact, on at least 22 occasions, he said he did not have the authority to do what he has done."
Indeed he did. Congressional Democrats are predictably fear-mongering over the House's action, with Nancy Pelosi invoking the Paris terror attacks to scold Republicans for threatening to shut off Homeland Security funding during dangerous times. Of course, Republicans have already voted to fund the entire federal government through the fall; this bill increases overall DHS funding by $400 million, including more money for border security. Only a Democratic filibuster or a Presidential veto would force a wider DHS shut down in February, and those actions would come exclusively in defense of an unpopular executive decree on immigration -- which, as Boehner says, Obama repeatedly described as illegal prior to doing it anyway:
"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case."
The White House issued a veto threat earlier in the week, with Obama laughably accusing Republicans of playing politics with national security. Harry Reid is hammering the GOP on the immigration front, too, accusing them of supporting "tearing families apart." Democrats are all in favor of keeping families together when it comes to allowing illegal immigrants to remain in the United States, but they were far less excited about reuniting families via swiftly deporting the thousands of unaccompanied minors who streamed across the border last year. How odd. (That surge in illegal entries among minors, incidentally, was at least partially fueled by rumors of a forthcoming amnesty program). The House-passed legislation now heads to the Senate, where several Republican moderates are balking at some of the specifics. One element of the House bill that will likely get stripped out is the more controversial amendment defunding Obama's 2012 DREAM Act-style DACA order, which passed narrowly today. Some conservatives have argued, persuasively in my view, that lassoing DACA into this fight weakens Republicans' political hand by offering the Democrats an easy demagogic talking point. Process questions aside, the DREAM Act is pretty popular. A legislative push on that front was underway at the time and was attracting bipartisan support before the president kneecapped the process for political reasons. Conversely, the new amnesty was a hot topic on the 2014 trail, with Republicans campaigning hard against it. They won a landslide victory. The broader amnesty for adults should therefore be the focus (although, for the record, Obama also used to say that he lacked the authority to impose DACA).
If Democrats insist on playing chicken and allow DHS to enter partial shutdown, the GOP hopes its messaging position will be far stronger than it was in late 2013, when the public largely blamed them for the across-the-board partial shutdown. Their argument this time: "The vast majority of the US government is funded for months into the future, and we've passed legislation to raise homeland security spending by hundreds of millions of dollars. The Democrats are forcing this partial shutdown for the sole purpose of protecting Obama's unlawful executive order granting a sweeping amnesty to millions of adults who entered the country illegally." We'll see how the debate plays out. Allahpundit foresees a Democrat-engineered Senate stall (they're fierce defenders of the filibuster again), followed by a cave in the face of tough national security politics. Parting thought: Ever since getting hammered in an election -- in which, by his own admission, his agenda was on the ballot -- President Unity has done little else but drop veto threats left and right. Obama seems intent on devoting the final two years of his presidency to ramming through his rejected worldview via executive fiat while waving around his veto pen to thwart Congress' will. Can Republicans successfully paint him as the Obstructionist-in-chief, and exact a political price from his party?