A looming shutdown crisis! (So what else is new?)

    The task is distasteful, but, alas, it’s unavoidable. We need to assess the new Republican Congress, which seems determined to weaken America by un-funding the Department of Homeland Security.

    Yes, folks. Looming ever closer on the horizon is yet another (albeit partial) government shutdown – brought to you by the party that promised responsible governance in 2015. To quote Senate leader Mitch McConnell last November, “There will be no government shutdowns.”

    But old habits die hard. Irresponsibility appears to be baked into the GOP’s DNA. Newly empowered in both chambers, the party for its opening act has concocted a tone-deaf two-fer. Its essence:

    We hate the fact that President Obama has taken executive actions to keep immigrant families together. If Congress refuses to stop him, then fine, we’ll financially starve the agency that’s entrusted to keep America safe.

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    In thrall, as always, to its nativist right wing, the House GOP has decreed in a bill that the Department of Homeland Security will not be funded beyond Feb. 27 – unless Congress agrees to revoke the Obama actions that currently shield millions of unauthorized immigrants, including children, from deportation.

    It’s politically stupid to hold that agency hostage – given the international threats we face, the same threats that Republicans routinely rail about. And, worse yet, it’s tactically stupid – because the Republicans have fomented this showdown without figuring out how they can win it. They seemed to assume that enough Senate Democrats would cave to their nativism and help pass the House bill. Hasn’t happened. Three times McConnell has brought it up for a vote, three times the Senate Democrats have refused to help.

    The result: Stalemate. And this week the Republican Senate is on vacation, which means it has left itself four working days before Homeland Security runs out of money. If that happens, 30,000 employes will be furloughed, and roughly 200,000 more will have to work without pay. The crisis would end if the House GOP simply agreed to strip out the deportation stuff and send the Senate a “clean” funding bill, but John Boehner scoffs at such logic.

    On Fox News yesterday, when he was asked whether he’s truly prepared to shut off the Homeland Security spigot, he replied: “Certainly.” He insisted that the Senate Democrats are the ones responsible for this crisis, because they’ve refused to cave. Is Boehner funny or what? That’s like a bank robber, stymied in a standoff, trying to heap blame on the recalcitrant bank tellers.

    And instead of the Senate Democrats blinking first at the brink, there are fissures on the Republican side. Indeed, some GOPers warned months ago that it would be nuts to target Obama’s immigration actions by holding the budget process hostage. As strategist John Feehery said in November, “I think it is dangerous for Republicans to try and withhold funding.” He said that, instead, the ruling GOP should “take this as an opportunity” to craft its own immigration plan. (A responsible governing alternative? What was he thinking?)

    Now, within the Republican ranks, we have Sen. Mark Kirk saying, “I think we should just pass a clean DHS bill and fund the department.” We have Sen. Bob Corker saying, “I don’t think a shutdown of the department whose purpose is to secure our homeland is a good idea for anybody.” We have Sen. John McCain saying, “The American people did not give us (the) majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans. They want things done. You cannot cut funding from the Department of Homeland Security.” A Boehner underling, congressman Jeff Denham, says it’s “irresponsible” to force a Homeland Security funding crisis and blame Democrats if the agency shuts down.

    Even the talking heads on Fox News Sunday were restive yesterday. Dana Perino, a former George W. Bush aide, warned, “This is not going to end with the Republicans looking like heroes…They will blame each other.” Conservative columnist George Will tut-tutted that Boehner is wrong “to send this futile gesture to make the Republican base feel good.” He said that Boehner needs to “explain to the Republican base how the system works….That’s called leadership.”

    And with the DHS shutdown clock ticking down, here’s The Wall Street Journal editorial page: “(T)he response to President Obama’s immigration order seems headed for failure if not a more spectacular crack-up….Republicans are facing what is likely to be another embarrassing political retreat and more intra-party recriminations…and the rest of America will wonder anew about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight….This is no way to run a congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Hillary Clinton.”

    Mitch McConnell recently promised a GOP regime that was “not scary.” Yet here we have the Journal editorial page – ground zero for the Republican coalition – already freaking out. That alone should tell you something.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.


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