House Speaker John Boehner isn’t following his fellow Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s cave-in yesterday on a Department of Homeland Security spending bill, and the distance between them is becoming more clear.
The Ohio Republican told colleagues he hadn’t spoken to McConnell in two weeks, and while some lawmakers attempted to downplay the rift, the chasm between the two chambers is growing wider.
“In November, people thought Harry Reid was going to be dethroned and the Senate was going to be controlled by Republicans. I’m sad to say that hasn’t happened,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), a key conservative, underscoring the growing enmity between the House and Senate GOP.
Tuesday, McConnell said he would remove language from a DHS funding bill aimed at stopping President Obama from enacting the executive amnesty he announced in November. An unhappy GOP senator describes McConnell’s approach as a “total victory for the Obama position.”
But in addressing his House colleagues Wednesday morning, Boehner did not budge from the House position.
“He said to keep yourselves very flexible for the weekend. It sounds to me like he’s hunkering down. This was his strategy to begin with. He was the one who talked us out of fighting this fight during the cromnibus. So this is his strategy and I’m glad he’s showing some backbone on this,” Salmon said.
Behind the standoff is the real sense that Boehner’s leadership could be on the line if he follows McConnell’s lead.
“This is very, very delicate territory for our leadership,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-LA).
“They know our base out there – I’m not talking about the conservatives in the House – it’s our base out there that is going to be upset if we deviate from this,” Fleming added. “My staff told me, you know, I voted for Speaker Boehner. My staff said we had more calls to vote against him than we had against Obamacare. There was a huge spike of calls, and that all goes back to the cromnibus. So, to cave at this point, on this bill, our leadership sees real danger in doing that.”
Meanwhile, liberal Republicans including Rep. Peter King (R-NY) are growing increasingly restive as a Friday deadline comes near, after which the current spending for DHS will expire, possibly resulting in some furloughs even as a large majority of the agency continues operations.
“We can’t allow DHS not to be funded. People think we’re crazy. There’s terrorist attacks all over the world and we’re talking about closing down Homeland Security. This is like living in the world of the crazy people,” King said.
House conservatives say they understand the stakes of a DHS shutdown, but add that Obama’s executive amnesty was so flagrantly unconstitutional that the very foundation of the U.S. government is at risk.
“As anybody can attest, I feel like national security is our top priority. However, the reason that we have a national security apparatus that we have is because of the constitutional foundations. If we ever gave through the Constitution, everything else would come apart,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ).
Meanwhile, the frustration that the Senate, now controlled by the GOP, still can’t move to produce a bill – any bill – is driving deep frustration in the House.
“I’m waiting for the Senate to act. The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security and to stop the president’s overreach on immigration. And we’re waiting for the Senate to do their job. Senate Democrats have stood in the way now for three weeks, over a bill that should have been debated and passed. So until the Senate does something, we’re in a wait-and-see mode,” Boehner told reporters.
“Let’s see what they actually produce. And it’d be nice to actually have them do something,” added Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ).