Congressional Republicans thought they had a brilliant idea. They would fund the Department of Homeland Security, but only on the condition that they also get to destroy President Obama's immigration policy. Democrats would have no choice but to go along, Republicans told themselves, because if Dems balked, the GOP would defund Homeland Security operations.
It was, in other words, the latest in a series of hostage strategies. "Meet our demands," the Republicans' ransom letter said, "or the DHS gets it."
Dems in the White House and on Capitol Hill, to the surprise of absolutely no one, said they would not pay the ransom. More importantly, Democrats said the GOP majority should stop fooling around, fund DHS before the end-of-February deadline, and move on to the next silly game.
All of this is coming to a head very soon, and as Sahil Kapur noted
this morning, Republicans don't have the foggiest idea what to do about the mess they've created.
Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster Republican-led legislation to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded because it overturns President Barack Obama's immigration actions, and a divided GOP hasn't yet settled on a fallback plan to avoid a partial government shutdown at the end of February.
No, of course they haven't. They excel at coming up with doomed schemes, but Congress' majority party struggles with the idea of "Plan B" strategizing. Republicans had the bright idea of setting a trap, which they proceeded to fall into.
So what happens now? The House has already passed its ridiculous version, which is now headed for the Senate floor. Democrats will almost certainly block it -- which is to say, they'll deny it the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster -- at which point Congress will have limited time to come up with something else. The House says it won't pass a clean bill; the Senate says it can only pass a clean bill.
That said, according to Politico, there are signs of GOP buckling
At a closed-door lunch late last month, one Republican senator after another questioned how their party will escape its political jam on immigration.... [S]ome GOP senators were in no mood to play endless games with the House. "We just need to rip the Band-Aid off," said one Republican senator, saying the Senate should strip out all the immigration language and pass a "clean" DHS funding bill. "I think the House guys rolled a grenade in the room," a second GOP senator said later.
Making matters slightly worse for the GOP, there's no doubt who would be blamed if the Republican stunt fails and Homeland Security funding falters: the ones holding the hostage.
As for the Obama administration, the president is keeping the pressure on
, reminding Republicans of the dangerous consequences of their little gambit, and the three former Secretaries of Homeland Security -- two of whom are Republicans -- are publicly urging
Congress not to allow a partial shutdown of their former agency at the end of the month.
Given the number of GOP lawmakers who've said they don't care
if the Department of Homeland Security suffers as a result of this stunt, the former cabinet secretaries' message hopefully resonated.