By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill
The House Republican leadership is running into resistance from conservatives to its three-part plan to fund the government but also blast the Obama Administration for the immigration executive orders. Conservatives don’t like the new path, saying it doesn’t do enough to rebuke the president. It’s not known yet if the problems are deep enough to blow up the entire strategy. But here’s how it works:
Congress must approve a new spending bill by the end of the day on December 11th or the entire government shutters. Again. Many conservatives are hounding Republican leaders to use the spending package to harness money the Department of Homeland Security would use to carry out President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Such a maneuver by the Republican-controlled House would die in the Democratic Senate. It would also face a likely veto threat by the president. So the GOP leadership is offering a bill written by Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) which would hamper the president from unilaterally exempting many illegal immigrants from deportation. Some may view that legislation as a fig leaf since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already said he had no intention to consider the measure if it got through the House. But the Republican braintrust believes the bill would placate conservatives by allowing them to vent their grievances over immigration on a piece of legislation other than the spending bill. The Yoho bill goes before the House Rules Committee at 3 pm et today and would prospectively be on the floor tomorrow.
Come next week, the House would tentatively vote on a measure to fund nearly the entire government through next fall, but only pay for the Department of Homeland Security through late winter. That would allow the new Republican majorities in both bodies of Congress to tackle immigration head-on next year. Plus, it avoids an immediate government shutdown fight before Republicans can even start next year with a clean slate.
Most Democrats abhorred the idea. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned Republicans of deviating from a comprehensive spending bill which appropriators have toiled on for months.
“It is dangerous and irresponsible to engage in stunts and gimmicks affecting funding for the agencies under the Department of Homeland Security,” said Lowey. “This is no way to run a government. We should proceed with negotiations and develop a full omnibus.”
As much as Democrats don’t like the plan, it’s certainly not perfect for Republicans. Boehner conceded as much when asked about GOP efforts to counter the president yesterday.
Regardless, resistance is simmering in the Republican ranks. Since seizing the House majority in 2011, GOP leaders have had little margin for error when it comes to passing major pieces of legislation. They’ve had to turn to Democrats to lug significant pieces of legislation to passage. The most-notable case came this past February. The Republican leadership put a bill on the floor to suspend the debt ceiling. The measure passed, but with a scant 27 yeas from Republicans. 199 Democrats hauled the rest of the freight to passage, averting yet another debt limit crisis.
As it stands now, Republicans can only lose 18 of their own before having to turn to Democrats to keep the government open. Reid called the Republican effort to only fund DHS through March “a shame.” But the Nevada Democrat didn’t completely torch the House Republican maneuver. He hinted he might accept something less than a so-called “omnibus” bill which would fund all quarters of government through September 30, 2015.
“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all of the appropriations subcommittees except one,” said Reid.
But it could be a different tale for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi has long-backed the “year-long” omnibus plan. And last week, perhaps anticipating the fix in which House GOPers might find themselves, Pelosi tipped her hand.
“We will not be enablers to a Republican shutdown, partial or otherwise,” said Pelosi, well-aware of previous scenarios where the GOP implored Democrats for assistance on the floor.
Republican sources indicated there may be some “softness” in GOP ranks for the trifecta plan. But GOP aides noted that over the past four years, the Republican Conference has traditionally lost 30-50 members on its side when it comes to voting on big legislative initiatives.
“This is just what we always go through,” lamented one senior aide familiar with previous vote-counting efforts.
The main goal for House Republicans is to extinguish all fires for this Congress and live to fight again – and actually do so with authority – next year. But Republicans may have to just fund all of government for a few weeks and again dive into another spending scuffle early next year.
This is a BIG test of the new GOP leadership team..and particularly the whipping skills of new House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA). The stakes are also high for Boehner. He could face an uprising from conservative members during the vote for Speaker next year if they don’t feel he has fought hard enough to counter the president. This is why the right-wing of the party is insisting on a limited funding plan for DHS for the time being.
It will be interesting if Boehner has to just cut his losses and pass a bill to keep the government open next week..with LOTS of help from Democrats. And that will ignite an internal firestorm in GOP ranks.