Politico reported over the weekend that Republican leaders, feeling exalted after a successful midterm cycle, are “facing a daunting reality: They are right where they left off.”
Republican leaders wanted a quick and clean, drama-free lame duck session to kick off their new majority, but they find themselves heading toward a showdown over how to fund the government.
For much of 2014, GOP officials hoped voters would not see the Republican Party as the home of shutdown politics and impeachment threats, and yet, it’s apparently mulling both, all because President Obama is poised to govern on immigration policy.
Let’s tackle these one at a time. First, of course, is funding the government and preventing a shutdown after Dec. 11. A growing number of far-right lawmakers want to add language to a spending bill that would prevent the White House from taking executive actions on immigration, forcing a confrontation: either the president signs the bill that ties his hands or Republicans turn off the government’s lights again.
In the House, GOP leaders want a clean, long-term spending bill that would prevent any shutdowns for at least a year, but top Republicans “begun to conclude that it will be difficult, if not impossible, to rally their caucus” behind the idea. Once again, rank-and-file conservatives just don’t seem to care what House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team want.
In the Senate, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office is reportedly so “worried” about a possible standoff that “by Friday evening they were circulating a memo showing how damaging last year’s shutdown was to the Republican Party – an effort designed to counter conservatives who point to this month’s triumphant election as proof that the shutdown did little damage.”
If McConnell’s office didn’t see a shutdown as a real possibility, it wouldn’t have bothered circulating a memo warning against it.
Indeed, Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) was asked yesterday on Fox News about the possibility of a shutdown, and the Republican conceded “we’re having those discussions.” What’s more, just like the last GOP shutdown, Heritage Action is egging the pro-shutdown brigade on.
All of which leads us to the other potential crisis: impeachment.
Late last week, Republican pundit Charles Krauthammer, who was dismissive a few months ago about the idea of impeaching the president, changed direction. His allies on Capitol Hill apparently noticed.
Republican Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said today he believes unilateral executive action taken by the president to slow deportations of undocumented immigrants would be an impeachable offense.“Well Charles Krauthammer was asked that same question and I think, just recently on one of the news programs and I have to agree with him of course it would be,” Salmon said on America’s Forum.
The comments from the Arizona congressman came just four days after Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) also said impeachment is “a possibility” and “would be a consideration.”
Remember all that talk two weeks ago about how eager Republicans are to prove they’re a responsible governing party? Forget it.
It’s important to emphasize that GOP leaders in both chambers don’t seem especially interested in either of these gambits. Indeed, Boehner and McConnell seem to realize that these Republican-imposed crises, so soon after the midterms, are a ridiculous idea. It’s no doubt why the Speaker’s office is talking about expanding its yet-to-be-filed lawsuit – Boehner needs an alternative that lowers the temperature and placates his radicalized caucus.
But that may not be enough. We’re dealing with a toxic combination of weak GOP leaders, a right-wing base, election results that have emboldened Republican extremists, and a president whose every move is suddenly seen as an impeachable offense.