Boxed in Turtle

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The Septuagenarian Ninja Turtle, Mitch McConnell, the man most responsible for the GOP’s scorched Earth policy of no compromise, no negotiation, “just say no” to everything, and the Tea-Publican’s historic abuse of the Senate rules on secret holds and filibusters, now finds himself hoist by his own petard — and Deportation Tea-Publicans, the lunatics running the asylum in the TanMan’s House. That’s cosmic justice, baby!

The Washington Post reports, McConnell, after his no-shutdowns pledge, quickly finds himself boxed in:

Screenshot from 2015-01-25 15:31:49Less than six weeks on his powerful Capitol Hill perch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is on the verge of watching one of his most important promises — to never again shut down the government — go up in smoke.

Lawmakers on Friday began a 10-day hiatus, leaving them just four days when they return to pass funding for the Department of Homeland Security to avoid the shutdown of a key federal agency. The DHS budget fight follows an effort among GOP conservatives to roll back President Obama’s recent executive orders on immigration.

Conservatives are adamant that the security agency should be funded only if the legislation also overrules Obama’s orders, which prevent the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. But Senate Democrats, even the few who oppose Obama’s moves, have blocked the House-passed legislation with repeated filibusters.

That has left McConnell trapped inside a legislative box that he had vowed to avoid — and one that for the previous four years his close ally, House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), frequently wandered into without an exit strategy.

McConnell was determined not to repeat those mistakes.

“Let me make it clear: There will be no government shutdowns,” McConnell said the day after he won reelection and a Republican rout gave his party the Senate majority.

But this week, McConnell declared the Senate stuck, and in need of Boehner’s help. The speaker was not in a helping mood. Boehner said he has no interest in passing legislation through the House that could draw Democratic support in the Senate.

“The House has done its job,” Boehner told reporters Thursday. “We’ve spoken. And now it’s up to the Senate to do their job.”

* * *

Some McConnell advisers [are fudging] that a brief lapse in funding for one federal agency would not break his no-shutdowns promise. McConnell made no public mention of the DHS showdown, sticking to his comments that Boehner will have to make the next move.

“I think it’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate unless you all have heard something I haven’t,” McConnell said. “And so the next move, obviously, is up to the House.”

Remember that this GOP clusterfuck was a planned strategy from last fall:

The year-end funding showdown in December was built around the principle of avoiding this kind of brinkmanship, with Boehner and McConnell scuttling the possibility of a broad shutdown by agreeing to pass 11 of the 12 annual bills that fund the federal agencies.

The DHS was left out because of opposition to the executive action Obama announced deferring deportations of millions of illegal immigrants. The DHS, the agency in charge of immigration and border policy, was given a short-term extension of funds until Feb. 27, buying time for McConnell and Boehner to come up with an escape plan — one that has yet to appear.

“I have every confidence we will meet the deadline, one way or the other,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), McConnell’s top lieutenant on the leadership team. “Just how, I can’t tell you right this minute.”

Democrats said even a small-scale shutdown so soon on McConnell’s watch would hurt him politically. They believe it would set a precedent, with the far right wing pushing him around in the same manner that House conservatives have backed Boehner into corners he wanted to avoid.

So where does this leave the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, the “Worst. Speaker. Ever.” John Boehner, and the boxed in Turtle, Mitch McConnell?

One possibility is to remove the language on immigration and pass a “clean” funding bill, which would probably prompt the biggest revolt from conservative activists. A second option is to pass another short-term extension of DHS funding for a few more weeks or months.

The latter idea, more palatable to conservatives, puts off for another day the same predicament the leadership finds itself in now.

A third option is to dig in for a fight and let funding dry up for an agency that is seen as essential to protecting the nation.

Although that is anathema to many Republicans, the idea has gained traction among leading establishment conservatives.

There is little time to avert a shutdown, and it almost certainly involves capitulation to the Democrats.

The Post’s Greg Sargent wrote last week, The GOP mess on Homeland Security funding is only going to get crazier:

The New York Times has a good overview of the ways House and Senate Republicans are now attacking each other very aggressively over the failure to block Obama’s actions. This quote, from Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, is pretty lively:

“Senator McConnell has engaged in a half-hearted effort to date. McConnell has engaged in a policy of surrender without fighting. I’m not going to vote to fund unconstitutional conduct by Barack Obama. Period. End of subject.”

Oh dear. As always, the Rule of Cruz applies: The problem isn’t with the strategy itself; the problem is that Republicans like McConnell are “surrendering” before it can be allowed to work.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that a number of House and Senate conservatives are actually advocating for letting DHS’s funding expire, on the theory that this will force Obama to relent and reverse his executive actions. One dissenter is Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon:

“I don’t think we win that debate in the press, we don’t, for a lot of reasons,” Walden said. “Some people think we can. I’m not one of them. Just because the American people expect us to come here and get our job done and get our work done, and work out our differences — and especially in the area of national security.”

Walden is chair of the NRCC, which means part of his job is to ensure Republicans hold their majority, so it’s particularly notable that he recognizes the political dangers here.

The Hill quotes a number of GOP Senators wringing their hands about how awful a DHS shutdown would be for the country, including this one:

One senior GOP senator leaned in and whispered to The Hill: “Of course Republicans will get blamed” for a shutdown.

You know, it’s almost as if Republicans have tried this before and might even learn from their previous experiences.

[From an earlier post:]

With Republicans uncertain how to proceed in the face of their inability to pass anything that funds Homeland Security while rolling back Obama’s executive actions on deportations, Politico’s David Rogers makes a key point:

How much would it cost for the government to deport all the undocumented workers who stand to benefit from Obama’s most recent executive order? That could be upward of $20 billion to $25 billion, according to the best estimates collected by POLITICO.

It’s almost as if the policy details are beside the point entirely.

Speaking of crazy, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) really outdid himself last week. At the beginning of the week he told the kidz at POLITICO Tiger Beat on the Potomac, Republicans turn up heat on Dems in DHS fight:

[I]n a brief yet blistering interview, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) suggested that Senate Democrats deserved far more public blame for the impasse than they were getting.

“The Republicans — if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown — we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans,’” Kirk said Tuesday.

Tough talk for an about to be one-term senator. The very next day Mr. Tough Guy was already waving the white flag of surrender to Roll Call. DHS Funding: Mark Kirk Ready to Pass Clean Bill:

Illinois Republican Mark Kirk has had enough of the standoff over funding the Department of Homeland Security and wants the Senate to pass a clean bill.

“Yeah, I think in the end,” Kirk said when asked if Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should have the Senate pass a DHS spending bill without language designed to block President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“I generally agree with the Democratic position here,” Kirk said. “I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding.”

Yep, GOP crazy goes clean to the bone.

UPDATE: Roll Call reports that Tea-Publicans are entirely lacking in self-awareness. House Conservatives Call on Senate to Change Filibuster Rules for DHS:

As House Republicans grapple with how they can force Senate Democrats to take up their version of a Department of Homeland Security funding bill, some conservatives are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to turn toward the so-called nuclear option.

Mitch McConnell can change the rules of the Senate,” Rep. Raúl R. Labrador said Thursday at a panel discussion with conservative lawmakers. “And this is important enough for Mitch McConnell to change the rules of the Senate.”

Senate Democrats used the nuclear option to change the rules in the last Congress for “low-level appointments,” Labrador noted. “We’re talking about a constitutional crisis,” he said.

* * *

Labrador wondered why Republicans would let a small bloc of Senate Democrats thwart their legislative propositions, and he said if that was the plan, there was no point to being in D.C.

“Why don’t they all just go home?” Labrador asked.

* * *

Labrador seemed to have the support of his conservative colleagues sitting on the dais at the monthly “Conversations with Conservatives” event. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said he didn’t think McConnell should let the Senate stand in the way of the Constitution, while South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney noted the filibuster rule was not in the Constitution.

Mulvaney was not opposed to setting a new Senate precedent for simple majority votes. “The rule is by tradition,” he said. “And the rule not been sacrosanct since the beginning — the rule has been changed from time to time.”

* * *

Other conservative Senate Republicans, however, were reluctant to join the call for rule changes.

At a separate news conference Thursday, GOP Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Ted Cruz of Texas suggested they weren’t planning to push the nuclear option any time soon.

“I don’t think that’s an option we’re looking at right now,” said Sullivan.

“I think the Senate rules wisely protect the minority,” Cruz piped in. “The answer is not to change the Senate rules. The answer is for Senate Democrats not to be obstructionist. And even more so, the answer is for Senate Democrats to be held accountable if they are simultaneously being hypocritical.”

Just . . .Wow. Have these guys not been living in a cave for the past six years? “Hypocrisy” is thy middle name.

UPDATE: Tthe editorial page of the Wall Street Journal last week could hardly contain its disappointment with GOP lawmakers’ ineptitude:

If Homeland Security funding lapses on Feb. 27, the agency will be pushed into a partial shutdown even as the terrorist threat is at the forefront of public attention with the Charlie Hebdo and Islamic State murders. Imagine if the Transportation Security Administration, a unit of DHS, fails to intercept an Islamic State agent en route to Detroit.
So Republicans are facing what is likely to be another embarrassing political retreat and more intra-party recriminations. The GOP’s restrictionist wing will blame the leadership for a failure they share responsibility for, and the rest of America will wonder anew about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight…. This is no way to run a Congressional majority.
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AZ BlueMeanie
The Blue Meanie is an Arizona citizen who wishes, for professional reasons, to remain anonymous when blogging about politics. Armed with a deep knowledge of the law, politics and public policy, as well as pen filled with all the colors stolen from Pepperland, the Blue Meanie’s mission is to pursue and prosecute the hypocrites, liars, and fools of politics and the media – which, in practical terms, is nearly all of them. Don’t even try to unmask him or he’ll seal you in a music-proof bubble and rendition you to Pepperland for a good face-stomping. Read blog posts by the infamous and prolific AZ Blue Meanie here.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Plus, Republicans are looking ahead to 2016 when they have to defend a bunch of senators, elected in the 2010 red wave, in blue states. If they get rid of the filibuster this year, they still have to win 2/3 majorities in both Chambers to override an Obama veto.
    If they get rid of the filibuster this year or next and Hillary Clinton wins, then it will be a majority vote for Supreme Court nominees, for example, like it became for all other federal judicial nominees in 2014. That would mean Clinton could nominate much better judges than under the current rules.

  2. What goes around comes around! I am glad to see the democratic party tell good government liberals who don’t believe in the filibuster to shut up and vote NO!

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