Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., joined by attorneys Paul D. Clement, far left, and Rick Esenberg, second from left, announces that he has filed a lawsuit to block the federal government from helping to pay for health care coverage for members of Congress and their staffs, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Johnson willing to put Homeland Security funding at risk

Congressional Republicans have created quite a mess for themselves on Homeland Security funding, and as of this afternoon, GOP lawmakers clearly have no idea how to clean it up.
For those just joining us, Republicans were so outraged by President Obama’s popular immigration moves in November that they created a showdown: funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire at the end of February – unless the president agrees to undo everything he’s done for undocumented immigrants, including Dream Act kids.
The gambit appears destined to fail, in large part because Senate GOP leaders have already made clear they have no intention of allowing a partial government shutdown to happen. But with House Republicans demanding a ransom from Obama and Senate Republicans moving in a different direction, how will Congress avoid a disaster? Even GOP leaders have no idea.
It’s led some far-right lawmakers to try to argue that cutting of DHS funding wouldn’t be so bad. BuzzFeed reported today:
Sen. Ron Johnson, the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said Tuesday he isn’t concerned about the potential shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Even in the last government shut down only 13.6% of DHS employees were furloughed,” Johnson said. “So the national security aspects, the aspects of the department that keeps America safe, are continuing to function no matter what happens in this very dysfunctional place.”
The far-right Wisconsinite has always struck me as an odd choice to lead an important panel like the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in part because he’s struggled repeatedly with the basics of public policy in general, and in part because of his often bizarre understanding of issues related to public security in particular.
And in this case, Johnson’s lack of concern about DHS funding – which, as Homeland Security Committee chairman, he should probably understand – is simply detached from reality.
Indeed, the Republican senator might want to watch the interview Rachel did last night 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.”
In other words, what Sen. Ron Johnson said is pretty much the opposite of reality.
The Rachel Maddow Show, 1/19/15, 9:13 PM ET

Challenging the system, a lesson from King

Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, talks with Rachel Maddow about the lessons he takes from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and how those lessons apply in today’s political climate.
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, talks with Rachel Maddow about the lessons he takes from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy and how those lessons apply in today’s political climate.