It's tempting to think that Republican lawmakers, eager to avoid a Homeland Security shutdown later this week, are quietly scrambling behind the scenes. Sure, it looks like they're doing no work whatsoever -- they even took last week off -- but perhaps that's just the public view. Out of sight, GOP leaders may be working towards a resolution before the deadline.
Speaker John Boehner told a closed meeting of House Republicans Wednesday morning he has not spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in two weeks, and added that it's up to the upper chamber to figure out how to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security. His comments came in a Wednesday morning meeting of House Republicans, just three days before DHS is slated to run out of money.
A veteran Republican senator told Politico
yesterday, "It seems like McConnell and Boehner aren't even talking to each other. It is mind-boggling."
As it turns out, it doesn't just "seem" that way; it is that way..
It's quite an operation the Republican majority is running, isn't it? McConnell and Boehner are careening towards an easily avoided ditch, but they're not even speaking to each other about their direction.
As if this weren't enough to rattle confidence in the GOP's competence, the process is unfolding in an increasingly haphazard way. McConnell effectively waved the white flag
yesterday, offering Democrats a clean spending bill that would avoid a Homeland Security shutdown in exchange for a separate bill in which Republicans would try (and fail) to undo President Obama's immigration policy. Senate Democratic leaders said McConnell's solution would work, but Dems want some assurances that the Republican-led House is on board with the plan.
Boehner and House GOP leaders have no intention of offering any such assurances. In fact, this morning the Speaker said his chamber doesn't actually intend to do anything
until the Senate acts on its own solution.
Complicating matters further, Boehner is very likely aware of the whispers
about his job being in jeopardy.
Senate Democrats are refusing to sign on to McConnell's proposal without a commitment from the speaker to move a "clean" DHS funding bill. But several House Republicans and their top aides have privately told POLITICO that a misstep by Boehner in this legislative skirmish could imperil his speakership. One said that Republicans would weigh trying to remove him from the position if he relents on his promise to fight the president's unilateral action on immigration "tooth and nail."
Roll Call reported
similar chatter, though (a) we've heard scuttlebutt like this before; and (b) those talking about an anti-Boehner revolt aren't going on the record, so it's hard to know whether to take any of it seriously.
The obvious solution is to simply move forward on a clean funding bill, just as Democrats have said all along. Republicans can agree to this now, and suffer a little embarrassment, or they agree to it after a DHS shutdown, and suffer a lot of embarrassment.
As the Speaker knows, if he brought a clean bill to the floor today, it'd probably pass, largely with Democratic votes (ignoring the Hastert Rule that Boehner occasionally overlooks
). The conventional wisdom says the Speaker wouldn't dare, but as Greg Sargent explained
this morning, "[W]e've seen this particular thriller a number of times already. Here's how it always goes: We are told there's no way Boehner would ever dare move must-pass legislation with a lot of Democrats. He's stuck! Then pressure builds and builds, and Boehner does end up passing something with a lot of Democrats. Last I checked, he's still Speaker."
This time might be a little different -- Republicans have convinced themselves the White House immigration policy is a death-of-the-republic kind of policy -- but either way, there's an endgame in sight.