Most recent showdowns on Capitol Hill follow a similar trajectory.
In 2011, for example, both parties agreed that national default must be avoided, until some Republicans declared, “Maybe default wouldn’t be so bad.” In 2012, both parties hoped to avoid damaging sequestration cuts, until some Republicans declared, “Maybe the sequester wouldn’t be so bad.” In 2014, both parties said they wanted to avoid a government shutdown, until some Republicans declared, “Maybe a shutdown wouldn’t be so bad.”
The pattern never seems to change.
Top Republicans are increasingly unworried about missing the Department of Homeland Security’s funding deadline.The Feb. 27 deadline was supposed to mark the next stage in Congress’ fight on President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, but now, leading Republicans say the fallout would be limited if Congress fails to act. In private conversations and in meetings around the Capitol and on the House floor, top House GOP figures say most of DHS’s 280,000 employees will stay on the job even without a new funding bill because they are considered essential employees – though their paychecks would stop coming in the meantime.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) told Politico that Congress shouldn’t ignore the looming deadline, but if lawmakers blow past it, it’s “not the end of the world.”
If you haven’t been following this, lawmakers are dealing with another manufactured crisis: Democrats want to fund the Department of Homeland Security at agreed upon spending levels, and Republicans also want to fund the Department of Homeland Security at agreed upon spending levels – but only if they can destroy President Obama’s immigration policy, eliminate protections for undocumented immigrants, and make millions of immigrants eligible for deportation.
There’s not a lot of middle ground between these two points – there’s obviously no way Democrats will agree to the Republicans’ terms – and if Congress doesn’t figure something out, current DHS funding will be exhausted by the end of February.
Apparently, the increasingly common response from Republicans is, “So what?”
In the upper chamber, Senate Republicans leaders have already said they have no intention of allowing a partial government shutdown to happen, though some of their own members – most notably Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) – have said they don’t care if lawmakers miss the Feb. 27 deadline.
In case anyone’s tempted to think the Republican posturing is harmless, consider the interview Rachel did last week with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. Rachel noted that Congress is holding up funding for the cabinet agency, and asked, “Does that have a material consequence for your department yet or are you worried it will in the future?” He replied:
“Yes and yes. Right now, the Department of Homeland Security is operating on a continuing resolution, which means that we are allowed to spend money until February 27th – at the same rate we spent money last year. That means that as long as we are on a C.R., we cannot engage in new starts, new spending, new initiatives, new grants to state and local law enforcement to fund homeland security missions. We can’t put in place the independent panel that recommended changes to the secret service has suggested we do. We can’t do a lot of things for border security. Our counterterrorism efforts are limited.“And my concern is that we not play political volleyball with our budget. We need an appropriation that is stood up on February 27th so we can go forward with a full year’s appropriations so we can fund these very vital things to homeland security.”
What’s more, let’s also not forget that if the Republican-led Congress balks at DHS funding, as part of some kind of partisan tantrum, the effects would be serious and immediate. Sahil Kapur recently explained, “[T]he agencies tasked with protecting the border and hunting down undocumented immigrants to deport would be harmed by a shutdown. U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection rely on appropriations.”
A few too many Republicans have apparently adopted a new posture: “We don’t care.”