Fred Hiatt’s editorial board at the Washington Post frames the question this way, “How far will Republicans in Congress take their reckless flirtation with undermining government this time?” Of course, in this case, the undermining of government is in a very specific area: the nation’s domestic security. This isn’t about whether or not your grandparents will get their Social Security check on time. This is about whether or not the Department of Homeland Security will have any money to fund their operations. We’re talking about “40,000 Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Patrol officers, and more than 50,000 TSA aviation security screeners, 40,000 active duty Coast Guard military members, 13,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement law enforcement agents and officers, and 4,000 Secret Service law enforcement agents and officers.” We’re also talking about the “National Operations Center (NOC) which is responsible for the providing national-level homeland security awareness to support senior level decision making.”

This sprawling bureaucracy is supposed to keep our borders and entry points secure and to stay abreast of all threats of domestic terrorism, as well as interdict drugs that are coming into the country and ravaging our communities. Either their efforts are important and justified by their substantial budget, or we’re wasting a tremendous amount of effort and money.

If the funding does indeed lapse, most of these employees will still report to work, they just won’t receive a paycheck, which would send quite a message about how much the Republicans value their contributions and care about their families. I can’t imagine this will do much for the morale of the organizations that are supposed to be keeping us safe.

This is too much for Fred Hiatt:

There is room for legitimate debate over the president’s most recent unilateral moves on immigration, which we happen to agree represent executive overreach. If congressional Republicans want to attack those actions responsibly, with discrete legislation, they are free to try — though they are unlikely to muster the votes to override a presidential veto.

However, it is another thing to wield their frustration over immigration as a cudgel, holding hostage an entire department of government that is critical to the nation’s security. That is as irresponsible as it is politically ill advised.

The president will make remarks today the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security. Obviously, he will highlight the importance of funding the department and all their operations.

It should be remembered that the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill last year and the House of Representatives was simply too racist to even attempt to act on it, even to pass an alternative. The new, Republican-led Senate is probably too racist to pass a new immigration reform bill this term, so they aren’t even offering the president an alternative. They’re just throwing a racist temper tantrum, and if this causes a deadly security lapse, that’s just too bad for the people who die, are injured, or see more of their privacy rights eroded in they hysterical response to a successful act of terrorism.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at