How many times can conservatives be rooked by establishment Republican leadership, and still keep coming back for more? In an attempt to find an answer to this question, Speaker John Boehner has now rolled out his big proposal to stop President Obama’s executive amnesty – and the proposal involves shutting down the government before allowing newly-elected Republicans to take office.
According to the National Journal, Boehner told the GOP Conference that “the House will vote on an omnibus bill that would fund the government through September but fund [the Department of Homeland Security] only through March.” Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would go along with the deal, so long as there were no riders in the bill. But other Democrats are already looking forward to fighting Boehner, claiming that Boehner wants to shut down the government over lack of DHS funding.
Boehner chose this plan over a far superior plan: funding a very short-term continuing resolution to fund the government through January, allowing Republicans to take over the Senate; funding each department of the government separately, rather than through omnibus packages, thus delinking funding for President Obama’s immigration program from funding for other programs. That would allow Republicans to have separate discussions and conversations over each department, rather than lumping all spending together and allowing President Obama to leverage a lack of funding for one program against all programs. This is, in fact, the strategy embraced by conservatives ranging from Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), who explained, “The voters understand that the cavalry is coming. Why in the world would you want to extend a CR, a funding bill, for several months out? Why not wait for those people to get here?”
But Boehner went with Plan A. The dumb plan.
Plan A follows hard on the Republican House leadership decision to accept a deal to cut benefits to military families under the new defense authorization bill. The logic on passing that bill, according to a senior House aide: “We had to do something now, so that was the compromise.”
“Do something now” seems to be the name of the game for the House leadership. After all, we wouldn’t want Republicans taking power in the Senate before pursuing major legislation. Better to negotiate with outgoing obstructionist Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and an emboldened President Obama than to wait for leverage to present itself.
This particular strategy plays directly into President Obama’s hands. After Republicans attempted to defund Obamacare in late 2012 in a strategy led by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the media went berserk, labeling the full omnibus package a Republican-caused “government shutdown.” Republican leaders ripped Cruz for supposedly tearing apart the conservative caucus; they said his strategy was bound to fail.
So, naturally, Speaker John Boehner now wants to pursue exactly the same strategy. When Cruz pursued the partial funding strategy, he was doing so out of necessity: Republicans did not control the Senate. Republicans, however, are slated to take over the Senate in January. So what’s the rush? Why pursue a strategy the media will proclaim equivalent to a shutdown when it’s completely unnecessary, and actually counterproductive?
There are only two possible answers as to why Boehner has decided on a losing media strategy. First, Boehner is simply dumb. He thinks he will be able to leverage concessions out of Democrats if he puts a lot of spending on the table. This strategy has failed over and over again. But, like Charlie Brown attempting to kick Lucy’s football, Boehner strives for the unreachable.
Second, Boehner and many in the Republican caucus agree, as a policy matter, with President Obama’s executive amnesty. Many Republicans in the establishment are upset with President Obama’s seizure of power, but lukewarm on his actual immigration position. The Wall Street Journal, for example, supports comprehensive immigration reform; so does the Chamber of Commerce. That legislation would accomplish the same goals as President Obama’s amnesty.
And so such Republicans must craft a strategy allowing them to tacitly support Obama’s amnesty while publicly condemning it. That’s precisely what Boehner is doing here. It’s why Republicans are passing an omnibus bill, knowing that it will be shut down by Reid in the Senate, forcing them to cave – and yet, at the same time, passing a meaningless bill condemning Obama’s executive amnesty. [UPDATE: Even the sponsor of that bill, Ted Yoho (R-FL), admitted on The Laura Ingraham Show that Boehner had given him no guarantees that he would attempt to defund executive amnesty come March.] Posturing over policy for Speaker Boehner, every time.
All of which means that the Republican Party skates once more on thin ice with its base. In November, shortly after Republicans won a historic election, the House GOP put its faith once again in Boehner. It now appears that that faith was wildly misplaced – and Republicans all over the country are left wondering whether their party has abandoned them.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.