Poor Timing

Gee, doesn’t it feel like we’ve been here before?

Days ahead of a looming partial agency shutdown, the pressure is on House Republicans after Senate GOP leaders agreed to Democratic demands and announced legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department without contentious immigration provisions opposed by Democrats and President Barack Obama.

Early reviews from House conservatives were negative ahead of a closed-door caucus meeting set for Wednesday morning, their first since returning from a weeklong congressional recess. Several insisted they could not accept the two-part strategy proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: a vote on legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department, and a separate vote to overturn Obama’s recent executive actions sparing millions of immigrants in this country illegally from deportation.

The approach “is tantamount to surrender, and won’t meet with support in the people’s House,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “I will fight against any funding bill that does not fully defund the president’s illegal actions….”

Boehner’s office issued a statement that neither accepted nor rejected the proposal McConnell outlined after weeks of gridlock.

It seems we’re drifting towards another one of those “rare” moments when Boehner is forced to abandon the “Hastert Rule” and pass an essential measure with Democratic votes against a majority of his own Members. We’ll then get the obligatory paens to Boehner’s courage and brilliance in a situation that shows neither, since he let spent weeks letting himself be maneuvered into this position.

The sense of poor timing is downright palpable, like watching old white men trying to dance. Now Republicans in both chambers are citing Judge Andrew Hanen’s order suspending the president’s latest executive action as a substantive victory and an excuse to pass a “clean” DHS funding bill. Why didn’t they do that when the decision was fresh? Now Senate Republicans are contriving to offer an exhortatory measure condemning the latest Obama order (which might attract a few Senate Democrats) but not earlier ones. That’s been an option all along.

Assuming the deal goes down as everyone now expects, the next thing to look for is exactly how shrill conservative activist fury at McConnell and at Boehner becomes, and whether it leads to consequences for either (most likely Boehner), or infects the GOP presidential nominating contest, where there are enough candidates that every position, however insane, will be represented.

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.