Yesterday’s terrorism in Paris, and the ensuing manhunt for the attackers, obviously represents an important crisis in France, but the violence has garnered attention around the world. For those of us who follow domestic politics, there’s an unanswered question about the effects yesterday’s attack may have on Capitol Hill.
It was, after all, just last month when Congress approved a spending package for the federal government with an important caveat: at the demand of far-right lawmakers, the budget for the Department of Homeland Security was put in limbo.
Republicans, outraged by President Obama’s immigration policy, weren’t able to force a government shutdown, but they did lay the groundwork for a February showdown: if the White House doesn’t back away from its immigration plan, GOP lawmakers are prepared to effectively shut down much of the Homeland Security operations.
Given yesterday’s terrorism, and fears of related violence, are Republicans still prepared to follow through on their partisan threats? A reporter posed that question to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) at a press conference yesterday.
“Listen, I said what happened over there [in Paris] reminds us that we should be vigilant. There are terrorists around the world who are intent on killing Americans and other freedom-loving individuals around the country. I believe that the president’s executive actions with regard to immigration are outside of the Constitution and outside of his powers.“And I believe that we can deal with that issue in the Department of Homeland Security bill without jeopardizing the security of our country.”
On that last point, officials at the Department of Homeland Security disagree, warning lawmakers that a partial shutdown would undermine the department’s operations.
Of course, there’s often a difference between what Boehner is willing to say and what Boehner is willing to do, so it’s an open question whether Republicans intend to follow through, putting DHS funding in jeopardy a month after a Parisian attack, even during a military campaign targeting ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) told Fox News yesterday, “The juxtaposition would be terrible – a terrorist slaughter in Paris and U.S. cuts back on Homeland Security funding.”
Other GOP lawmakers suggested they’d look for ways to narrowly focus their confrontation with the White House, targeting only those funds related to the president’s executive actions on undocumented immigrants. That may not be possible, and nearly as important, such a move would represent a de-escalation of the budget plans Republicans launched a month ago.
Complicating matters, divisions among GOP lawmakers won’t help. Just a couple of hours after Boehner indicated his willingness to follow through on next month’s standoff, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said of DHS, “[A]t the end of the day we’re going to fund the department, obviously.”
McConnell didn’t say, “Pay no attention to the House’s hollow posturing,” but he might as well have.
Update: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, effectively threw in the towel on his party’s original DHS plans during an interview last night. ”We want to stop this executive action, but I think the responsible individuals like myself have no desire to shut down this department,” McCaul said on CNN. “It’s too important to the national security interest of the United States.”