In its first month, the Republican-led House, with its largest GOP majority in generations, has tackled a series of awful bills that have no chance of becoming law. We’ve seen Republicans splinter and complain about one another. We’ve seen GOP leaders schedule floor votes on some key priorities, only to pull the bills from consideration soon after.
It’s probably not what the congressional majority party had in mind.
House Republicans are not off to a strong start, Speaker John A. Boehner acknowledged on Tuesday. Asked about the eleventh-hour withdrawal of bills related to abortion and, most recently, border security – both of which were initially considered easy lifts for the emboldened Republican majority before intra-party divisions emerged – Mr. Boehner attributed them to their attempts to fast-track the legislation without committee consideration to work out the disagreements.“There have been a couple of stumbles,” he said.
Um, yeah. Worse, these aren’t “stumbles” Republicans can blame on the White House or the Senate – the giant Republican majority, filled with optimism in the immediate aftermath of the 2014 midterms, is struggling to get its own act together.
Yesterday, much of the attention inside the Beltway seemed to be focused on the weather, but in the House, the day’s “stumbles” actually helped capture much of what’s gone wrong for the party.
The idea was to spend the afternoon passing a border-security bill championed by its GOP authors. By late morning, Republicans announced they had scrapped the scheduled vote – some blamed the inclement conditions outside, some noted that the House majority was divided between conservatives who supported the bill and further-right conservatives who said the legislation didn’t go far enough.
Even more important is the fact that the border-security bill, which will eventually be brought back to the floor, is itself a mess. Dara Lind explained yesterday:
Congress has been pushing to pass bill that turns border security into a matter of zero tolerance: by 2020, every single person entering the US from Mexico illegally must be apprehended. Every. Single. One.If even a single unauthorized immigrant gets across the border without being caught, DHS will get hit with penalties – getting everything from overtime pay to government aircraft access taken away from them.
So, when Republican policymakers say they have no interest in pursuing immigration reform until federal officials “secure the border,” they’re talking about creating conditions in which literally zero undocumented immigrants enter the United States from Mexico.
Once in a great while, someone sneaks into or out of North Korea. What Republicans have in mind is a border that’s even more secure than that.
Is there any chance at all of President Obama signing such a proposal into law? No, almost certainly not. But Boehner has decided to make it a priority anyway – even though he couldn’t pass it yesterday because of divisions within his own ranks.
There have, indeed, “been a couple of stumbles” in the House this month, but it’s nothing a more sensible agenda and more effective leaders couldn’t solve.
Update: It’s probably worth clarifying that far-right House Republicans who balked at absurd border-security bill weren’t complaining that it wasn’t conservative enough. Rather, their concerns were tactical: GOP members feared this vote was intended to placate them, when what they really want is a showdown over Homeland Security funding. If this measure were added to a must-pass package, these Republican lawmakers would be far more satisfied.