All-Star Panel: Reaction to DHS funding showdown

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," February 16, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER, R-OHIO: The House has done its job under the Constitution. It's time for the Senate to do their job. Listen, I've got a tough job here. So does Senator McConnell. But Senate Democrats are the ones standing in the way. They are the ones jeopardizing funding.


ED HENRY, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Speaker John Boehner to Chris Wallace on "FOX News Sunday" yesterday.

A quick response from the spokesman for House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi saying, quote, "He has no plan to avoid a government shutdown that would threaten the safety of the American people. The speaker's reliance on talking points and finger-pointing was a sad reflection of the fact the Tea Party continues to hold the gavel as they insist on their futile anti-immigrant grandstanding."

George, you had some strong comments on this yesterday on "Fox News Sunday." We just spent seven, eight minutes talking about the threat from terror. How could Republicans be put in a position now where they may be shutting down the part of government that deals with terror threats?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Because some members of the House enjoy the politics of sterile gestures, which is to say send to the Senate a bill that, you know, a, will not be passed by the Senate and, b, were if passed by some miracle, and miracles are thin on the ground these days, it would be vetoed by the president.

Worse, this is about defunding Department of Homeland Security or a portion therefore. In 2013 during the government shutdown 200,000 of 235,000 DHS employees were deemed essential and came to work. If you wanted to target the particular Citizenship and Immigration Service, it's called that deals with the immigration proposals that these people, that the conservatives rightly don't like, well, that's funded by fees. It's not funded by appropriations, and it will sail merrily on. So I do not know what they think they are accomplishing.

HENRY: Charles, when Speaker Boehner says it's all the Senate Democrats' part, they are filibustering, is that going to carry any water at all?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, there is sort of a rule in Washington that when anything shuts down it's the Republicans' fault, and I think that's the way the story will play this time as well. I must say it's very ironic given that DHS a an issue that the Republicans used in the 2000, what was it, 2002 elections, right, to destroy a lot of Democratic candidates. And, yes, now it's turning into the vein of their existence.

Only one thing I would say in response to George is maybe the only saving grace for the Republicans is so many people are deemed essential in DHS that even if you, quote-unquote, shut it down no one would notice.
It's not exactly like the whole government. So that might give the Republicans some political respite to get their act together and cobble something together.

You hear Senate Republicans like Corker, McCain, and others addressing the House and addressing their own leadership, let's work something out.
And one presumes that will get done eventually.

HENRY: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: No, let's not work something out. On this one I'm going radical. On this one I think it's time for the Republicans to do what Harry Reid did in October, 2013, in which he partially abolished the filibuster who he could pack the D.C. circuit to get three liberals on it.
I would go the rest of the way, abolish the filibuster over this, pass it with Republican votes, and have Obama have to veto or accept a bill which strikes out the funding for the immigration service and his illegal, unconstitutional actions.

HENRY: We have a sound bite. Let's hear it from a Republican, a prominent one, John McCain, who yesterday said this is a dumb idea.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: We cannot, we cannot cut funding of the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out. And there are ways we can address what the president did was unconstitutional. But it's not through cutting and shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. It's too serious.


HENRY: My point being I know you don't want to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. But would you even, under your plan, get the 51 Republicans, would you even get Republicans like John McCain supporting some of the pushback?

KRAUTHAMMER: If you have a bill that said that we fund everything in DHS, as the House has passed, except the part that would be implementing the unconstitutional action of the president, it would pass the Senate the way it passed the House. Then the president would have a choice. If he vetoes, well, then everybody will understand, unlike the narrative that you now have in the media that it's the Republicans who are shutting it down, you would understand that the president vetoed a bill to fund the department in order to preserve an illegal executive action on immigration.
And that's the way the story ought to read.

WILL: I repeat, the bill that would be passed by changing the fundamental nature of the Senate would get to the president's desk and be vetoed. And if he signed it, it wouldn't make a particle of difference because the relevant agency is self-funding.

HENRY: George, you were have been making that point. I wonder, I'm not defending shutting down any part of the government, but I hear from conservatives who say they won the last election. And they want to stop the president's executive actions on immigration. And this is they believe the only way to do it. And, because you think it's a bad political tactic.

WILL: It's not a bad political tactic. It's constitutionally impossible. That's the problem. The separation of powers is there. And if they want to solve the power they're up against win a presidential election. That solves a lot of problems.

LANE: The real problem here for the Republicans is that Senator McConnell declared emphatically when he took over as majority leader no more shutdowns. And he is boxed in by that. And so we can argue all we want, but he himself set the narrative.

KRAUTHAMMER: Let the president be the one to trigger the shutdown.
If immigration is self-funding, then he will sign the bill.

HENRY: That's it for the panel.

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