Just hours after Republicans filed their first action to defund parts of homeland security in order to stop President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform, a terrorist attack in Paris has them running away from themselves again.
In the wake of the Paris magazine attacks that have reportedly killed 12 people including journalists and police, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is backing away from Republican threats to defund Homeland Security as their way to defeat President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform.
John Harwood, who covers Washington and national politics for CNBC and the New York Times, tweeted:
Sen. @GrahamBlog on countering Obama's immigration action in wake of Paris attacks: "I've never been for shutting down Homeland Security"
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) January 7, 2015
Republicans only passed short term funding for the Department of Homeland Security in December, hoping to defund the agency in order to stop Obama from acting on his executive privilege with actions on immigration.
At the close of last year, Senator Graham tried to have it both ways blaming Senate Democrats for his refusal to defund the DHS, “Anybody who believes that we are going to successfully attack the executive order of the president by cutting off funding with a Democratic-controlled Senate is not attached to reality politically,” Graham said. “The best way to attack these executive orders is next year when we have majorities in both the House and Senate.”
But Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) opened the new congress with a bang, introducing a bill on Tuesday called the “Prevention of Executive Amnesty Act of 2015”, which allegedly avoids defunding Homeland Security by applying a “none of the funds” clause to the upcoming appropriation for the Department. The bill is supposedly intended to stop any spending on the President’s executive actions on immigration, while funding the rest of Homeland Security.
The problem with this is that Congress does not fund the agency that will carry out President’s executive actions, which are funded by fees.
None other than the House Appropriations Committee informed Republicans of this fact last November, according to The Hill:
“This agency is entirely self-funded through the fees it collects on various immigration applications,” the committee said in a statement. “Congress does not appropriate funds for any of its operations, including the issuance of immigration status or work permits, with the exception of the ‘E-Verify’ program. Therefore, the appropriations process cannot be used to ‘defund’ the agency.”
What part of “We cannot, literally cannot, defund that agency in an appropriations bill because we don’t appropriate that agency. That agency is entirely fee-funded” did Republicans not understand? It’s looking like House Republicans are starting the new Congress off with their specialty: useless showboating.
The only leverage Republicans have is shutting down the government, and that is why they left the DHS unfunded past February 27, 2015. But in light of the $1.4 billion bill Republicans stuck the American taxpayers with last time they shut down the government in yet another useless poutfest, Republicans keep adamantly denying that they are going to shut down the government.
What this bill and Senator Graham’s quick dodge away from the Republican position really indicate is that Republicans are nervous about being blamed for the results of their defunding actions and anxious to set a very different tone with the new Congress. So this isn’t good press. Explaining that they weren’t going to defund Homeland Security, really, even though they have been talking about defunding Homeland Security and deliberately failed to fund it past February so they could hold it hostage is not good press.
It’s yet another one of those awkward moments when Republicans were on the verge of a defunding pouftest with nary a care to the consequences. After years of Republicans loudly declaring that any disaster that arouse had nothing to do with the massively careless and reckless defunding of government that they’ve enacted in a rather desperate effort to derail President Obama, the fact that at the close of the last Congress they carefully funded areas surrounding controversies they are currently blaming Obama for said a lot.
Republicans were hoping to use a for show only defunding of executive actions show bill to further their narrative that Obama is the problem, but instead they got egg on their faces and a harsh reminder that playing politics while the real world continues on can be costly.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.