Republicans don’t have the numbers to overcome Democratic filibuster and bring the DHS funding bill to a vote, and the February 27 shutdown date is looming. At issue, of course, is whether to pass a clean bill or one that defunds Obama’s executive amnesty plan. Democrats have positioned this as Republicans versus national security, and many expect the GOP to cave under pressure before we reach the deadline.
Obama is doing everything he can to bring that pressure to bear. At the White House Summit on Violent Extremism, he is expected to emphasize the importance of a fully-funded Department of Homeland Security. VP Joe Biden is traveling to Baltimore for a visit to the Maryland State Police forensic laboratory, where he is expected to explain the role DHS funding plays in local law enforcement.
Where are our Leaders?
The shame of it is, Republicans are not countering this messaging with a strong argument of their own. The Democrats are every bit as responsible for the looming shutdown as the GOP. Nancy Pelosi can characterize this fight as Republicans putting politics before national security, but how can that be true of only one side? It’s just as true that Democrats care more about protecting Obama’s illegal proclamation than they do about terrorism. Then again, who would be surprised by that?
Some conservatives in Congress have made the case for standing against the amnesty using any means possible, but it remains to be seen how many will stick to their guns at crunch time. Is this a dog and pony show, or are we seeing a Republican Party finally willing to defend core conservative principles?
Problems to Overcome
What’s harming the party right now is a lack of consensus. Some Republicans already want to give in. Others are pushing Mitch McConnell to go outside the usual Senate process and eliminate the Democratic filibuster. House Republicans are wiping their hands clean of the whole thing, pretending as though this bill isn’t coming back to them one way or the other. Meanwhile, Democrats – some of whom actually oppose Obama’s executive action – are staying united. That unity may be all that’s needed to win in the end.
Another problem, of course, is that Americans are more concerned about national security than they are about illegal immigrants. This again comes down to a failure of messaging. Illegal immigrants are a national security concern. The president going around the Constitution is a national security concern. Republicans seem unwilling to paint this dispute in the stark terms necessary to sway the uninformed.
The final problem – and it’s one that Republicans will have to face sooner or later – is the media. Liberal pundits have used this as an opportunity to mock the right, saying that it proves Republicans don’t have what it takes to effectively govern. But that’s all the more reason to stand firm. If this culminates in a clean bill funding Obama’s amnesty, it will be the kind of public embarrassment Republicans can’t afford. It will also anger the conservative base, many of whom are waiting for these guys to prove they were worthy of a vote last November. If that’s the strategy – pander to the base before ultimately giving in – then Hillary may as well start shopping for White House drapery. Voters aren’t as forgetful as the GOP may think.