House Speaker John Boehner told congressional Republicans Tuesday morning that he will bring up a vote to pass a "clean" bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security with no strings attached, according to NBC News. With his back up against a wall and funding for the critical government agency set to run dry by Friday at midnight, Boehner alerted the House GOP conference during a closed door session Tuesday that the lower chamber will be voting on the clean bill as early as that afternoon. Boehner's announcement was met with dead silence from the room, NBC News reported.
The Republican plan for funding the Department of Homeland Security never really made any sense. As GOP lawmakers saw it, they'd refuse to fund the cabinet agency unless Democrats agreed to destroy President Obama's immigration policy -- but it was painfully obvious all along that Dems would never accept such terms.
The resolution was always going to be the same: Congress would have to pass a "clean" DHS bill, funding the department, and go after the White House's immigration policy through the courts. It was only a matter of time before Republicans realized they had no other credible option.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of Congress' fiercest anti-immigrant voices, told the AP after the meeting that this resolution is "the signal of capitulation," a complaint that happens to be true. But again, the question has always been when, not whether, congressional Republicans would fund Homeland Security. They could play games, fight with one another, point fingers, and make all kinds of threats, but sooner or later, a clean bill would clear Capitol Hill and become law.
Boehner could have saved himself quite a bit of hassle and humiliation if he'd guided his conference in this direction weeks ago -- the Speaker knew as well as anyone that this day was inevitable -- but he just isn't in a strong enough position to lead effectively.
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, meanwhile, there's President Obama, who's won another round.
Notice the familiarity of the pattern. In the fall of 2013, Boehner & Co.. said they were prepared to shut down the government unless Obama agreed to start dismantling the Affordable Care Act. The president made clear he wouldn't play any games -- when Congress sent a clean spending bill to the White House, Obama would sign it, and the political world could move on. Until then, he'd ignore the noise.
Reality didn't set in until after a pointless, costly shutdown, but eventually the president got his way.
A few months later, GOP lawmakers raised the specter of a debt-ceiling crisis, prompting the president to make clear there just wasn't any point -- he wouldn't give Congress a far-right reward for doing what they have to do anyway. Republicans soon after backed down.
Late last year, the GOP was once again threatening a shutdown, and once again, Obama got his way while standing firm.
For many Beltway pundits, the president just doesn't "lead" enough for their liking -- he's all brain and no backbone, they say. But the truth is, Obama's effective leadership in the face of repeated GOP hostage strategies is evident for anyone who looks. The president keeps drawing lines, telling Congress how it has to be, and waiting for lawmakers to agree -- which they inevitably do.
To be sure, Obama hasn't always understood this as well as he does now -- he thought he could negotiate with Boehner during the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis, which proved to be impossible -- but the president has learned from experience.
Has the House Speaker?
As we discussed yesterday, this isn't the last fight of the 114th Congress; it's the first. If recent history is any guide, new crises are on the way, with standoffs related to the debt ceiling, the Highway Trust Fund, and in the fall, the federal budget.
But if Republicans are paying attention as to how the last several rounds have gone, they'll realize their attempts at hardball are for naught.