Mini-Jumbo Shutdown on Horizon?

TPM’s Sahil Kapur offered a good explanation yesterday of why Republicans may not be able to stop themselves from shutting down the Department of Homeland Security when funding runs out on February 27. As you probably know by now, House Republicans are demanding that Senate Republicans keep advancing the House bill (which would de-fund the president’s executive orders on immigration) until doomsday and Senate Republicans keep telling House Republicans they need to come up with a different strategy. Most recently they are bickering over House demands that the Senate “go nuclear” in order to overcome a Democratic filibuster and get the bill to Obama for the expected veto.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats are not holding out any olive branches, with even senators (e.g., Joe Manchin and Claire McCaskill) opposed to Obama’s latest executive order refusing to support anything other than a “clean” DHS appropriations measure. Any search for a “deal” after Republicans decide they’ve postured enough is complicated by a planned recess that begins today and lasts until just four days before DHS funding runs out. And even if Senate Democrats for some reason abandoned their filibuster and let the GOP pass its bill, you’d have a presidential veto and veto override that will take some time.

No wonder we are again hearing Republicans rationalize that DHS really wouldn’t stop functioning if appropriations run out–even though, ironically, exhibit A for that argument is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, which operates on user fees, and which also happens to be in charge of processing the work permits for undocumented immigrants benefiting from Obama’s executive action. So even as thousands of Border Patrol and ICE employees faced furloughs, the supposed constitutional outrage of DACA would continue.

This is quite the cul-de-sac, and I don’t know how congressional Republicans get out of it without eating some crow and giving Steve King and Ted Cruz another example of their cowardice to yell about in the Pizza Ranches of Iowa.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.