Slouching Towards a DHS Shutdown

Time does fly. It’s now just three weeks before funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires, and the congressional Republican leadership that thought it was kicking the can down the road in providing temporary appropriations for the department even as Ted Cruz and others were demanding to shut ‘er down is no closer to a solution than ever, per this report from The Hill‘s Justin Sink:

The chances of a shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security are growing by the day, with congressional leaders at a stalemate over legislation that would provide funding after Feb. 27.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has warned that a lapse in funding would cause a “terrible disruption,” while White House officials have accused congressional Republicans of putting national security at risk.

“A shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security in these times is frankly too bitter to contemplate, but we have to contemplate it,” Johnson told reporters this week. “It is horribly unfair to ask people in the critical role of Homeland Security to come to work and not get paid because Congress can’t fund the department.”
Republicans are using the funding measure as leverage to try and roll back the president’s executive actions on immigration, with some arguing that the administration is overstating the impact of a shutdown at DHS.

Most of the Department’s employees will still be required to report to work in a shutdown, the Republicans note, minimizing the impact on crucial security functions.

With Senate Democrats blocking a DHS funding measure from the House, and conservatives pushing to hold the line, the path forward for lawmakers is unclear.

Sink goes on to itemize what DHS functions would and wouldn’t be degraded by a shutdown, but the broader political issue is that a Republican Party that’s supposedly focused like a laser beam on terrorist threats and border security is willing to compromise national capabilities in both areas in order to throw a hissy fit over the president’s refusal to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. I assume GOP leaders understand that, but if they’ve got a plan to extricate themselves from this mess other than shrieking and pointing at others things or shifting blame, it’s not clear what that would be.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.