Why Did Boehner Push DHS Funding Through the House?
Congress helped ease fears of another government shutdown on Tuesday with the passage of a funding bill. The bill received a strong 182 votes from Democrats and 75 from Republicans in the House of Representatives, making it bipartisan but still far from the popular option. The legislation, which put forth funding for the Department of Homeland Security, was discussed by Democrats in the White House as a major concern in terms of the risk of furlough and shutdown.
How do Republicans feel?
Republicans are not pleased, to say the least. No matter which way you look at it, some politicians and a segment of the electorate will see this as a defeat for the GOP. It’s been a common goal through multiple budgetary bills to get other laws or actions repealed or changed as add-ons to the highly vital refinancing.
It’s an effective tool, if one can make it work. During the last shutdown, the issue was the Affordable Care Act, with Republicans demanding it be repealed in order to pass a budget and prevent defaulting on debts.
This year, the issue at hand was immigration, with congressional members on the right in opposition to President Barack Obama’s executive action. So far, the consensus has been that they cannot successfully make their opposition a viable strategy.
The situation is a complicated one for the GOP. Many who were elected or gained reelection promised constituents that they would repeal Obamacare, or that they’d prevent the “amnesty” in Obama’s executive action. Among intraparty opponents, a favorite claim, especially with the Tea Party, is that legislators aren’t following through on these promises, aren’t stubborn enough, or don’t prioritize these goals enough.
Ransoming government funding has proven to be an unpopular tactic in the past among Americans, both on the right and left. It’s also considered ineffective and time-consuming, given the critical polling results for both Obama and Congress. Congress began 2015 with 16% job approval, while Obama began the year at 46%, according to Gallup. Either way you look at it, there’s no winning.
Why pass the bill if so many didn’t want to?
The answer is probably a combination of things. First, the unavoidable attacks over one of the Republican Party’s favorite subject matters: national security. One of the GOP’s defining characteristics is its emphasis on national security and a strong Department of Defense. The fact that opponents have been able to leverage this against them just as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made his visit, at the same time describing dangers posed by Iran, has not been helpful to the Republicans’ cause.
There is also the belief held by enough people in the party that a shutdown is not an effective way to achieve their goals on immigration. “I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), according to the New York Post. “I believe this decision — considering where we are — is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country. Our Republican colleagues in the Senate never found a way to win this fight.”
In the past, Boehner has been hesitant to prolong shutdown panic, pushing back at fellow Republicans who criticized the end of the shutdown and budget deal in 2013, saying: “Frankly, I think they’re misleading their followers. I think they’re pushing our members in places they don’t want to be. And frankly, I just think they’ve lost all credibility,” The Huffington Post reports. There’s no question that Boehner isn’t a fan of any plan that depends on the denial of funding.
“I believe this is a sad day for America,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Arizona), according to ABC News. “If we’re not going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”
The Clean DHS bill is not the last opportunity for Republicans to throw a wrench into the budgetary works over immigration and executive action. Later on, there may be other funding freezes that Republicans can allow to occur that don’t involve the DHS. But while some have been accepting of the House leadership’s decision to put off the battle for another day, there are others who will label it a bad decision.
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