House Speaker John Boehner is under fire on Capitol Hill, as Democrats are poised to take control of the House floor to fund President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty.
Even though Republicans have solid majorities in both chambers of Congress, a little known and seldom used House rule seems likely to become the vehicle through which a so-called “clean” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill—meaning one that would have no language blocking Obama’s executive amnesty—would pass the House of Representatives.
Senate Republicans already caved last week, passing a clean DHS funding bill for the full rest of the fiscal year after Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) held Senate Democrats together in blockading the House-passed DHS funding bill that contained language blocking it.
The House, under Boehner’s leadership, tried last week to pass a three-week clean funding bill, but more than 50 conservative Republicans held together to block its passage. Shortly thereafter, the Senate passed a one-week bill via voice vote—after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had told members to go home, meaning that even if they wanted to block the voice vote, most couldn’t get there in time to do so—and then the House passed it shortly thereafter. The president signed the one week DHS continuing resolution into law just moments before the deadline for current DHS funding, meaning DHS narrowly avoided a partial shutdown.
Now, Republicans in the House face yet another crucial deadline this week—but a series of chicanery-type votes and rules may help Congress fund all of DHS including Obama’s executive amnesty through the end of the fiscal year. But doing so could jeopardize Boehner’s speakership, as there’s definitely talk about yet another coup attempt against him should executive amnesty end up getting funded at the end of this process.
As Roll Call reported late last week:
With rumblings about a full-scale revolt from within the ranks should Boehner put a funding bill on the floor that doesn’t explicitly block implementation of President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions, there was talk Friday night from senior House Democratic aides of Republicans having found a face-saving procedural gambit that would ultimately end in full funding for Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The bottom line is any House Democrat could have the power next week to force a vote on a clean DHS funding measure. Here’s how: The Senate voted to amend the House-passed DHS funding bill — with immigration policy riders — and replace it with a ‘clean,’ six-month spending bill. The House, in turn, voted to ‘disagree’ with the Senate’s amendment to the House’s proposal, thereby sending the bill back across the Rotunda and requesting a conference committee (the theory being that, in that scenario, the House could negotiate with the Senate to reinsert some of the immigration riders back into a final product).
Reid has already rejected any plans for a conference between the chambers, and the Senate is expected early this week to fail to pass a measure to go to conference. Then the House Democrats could use a little-known House rule to get around Boehner.
“Clause four of House Rule XXII (not to be confused with the more-often cited Senate Rule XXII) provides: ‘When the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution with House or Senate amendments, a motion to dispose of any amendment shall be privileged,’” Roll Call wrote. “As the Congressional Research Service explains, ‘A chamber enters the stage of disagreement by formally agreeing to a motion or a unanimous consent request that it disagrees to the position of the other chamber, or that it insists on its own position.’”
Roll Call further explained the scenario by writing that “any House lawmaker, arguing that a conference scenario is moot and won’t be resolved before the clock runs out on the current extension of DHS funding, could take to the floor and move that the House recedes from its previous position and concurs in the Senate amendment.”
“Because such a motion is ‘privileged’ that would then trigger a vote on sending the Senate-amended full year Homeland Security appropriations bill to Obama’s desk without any of those riders designed to block his executive actions on immigration,” Roll Call wrote.
Roll Call wrote that Democrats are pushing this as a way to prevent Boehner from having to be blamed for caving on DHS funding, but it turns out Boehner would still take the blame in the end.
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) moved swiftly to try to block such a scenario.
“If we let Nancy Pelosi execute a privileged motion that would force a vote on the Senate version of DHS approps, it would pass and Obama’s lawless amnesty would be funded until Sept 30th,” King wrote in an email to 160 House GOP members. “There is a way to block that motion.”
King, who has already drafted a bill that would do this, wrote to his colleagues that Republicans can amend the House rule in question with their majority—and thereby block any efforts by Democrats to fund Obama’s amnesty, and stop Boehner from eschewing blame from himself if that’s what happens.
Politico reported over the weekend that close allies of Boehner are worried about a coup attempt that may happen against him if Boehner caves in the end.
“Close allies of Speaker John Boehner are worried that his conservative rivals could move to oust him as soon as next week,” Politico wrote. “Removing a sitting speaker is exceedingly difficult, and such an effort would almost certainly fall short. Yet growing speculation about the possibility of it – coming after Friday’s embarrassing defeat at the hands of conservatives and House Democrats on the homeland security battle — shows how vulnerable the speaker has become.”
Politico detailed exactly what would have to happen for Boehner to be removed in the middle of a Congress, since he was barely re-elected at the beginning of this Congress.
“To remove Boehner from the speaker’s chair, a lawmaker would introduce a ‘motion to vacate,’ which an overwhelming majority of GOP lawmakers would have to back,” Politico wrote. “Republicans say that would never happen in the conference right now.”
While there aren’t any ongoing discussions among members right now about attempting to take down Boehner, that could easily change if the political environment around Obama’s amnesty—and the DHS funding bill that could either block it, or enable its implementation—gets murkier and bloodier, something very likely to happen in the coming days.
“Some of these 52 [Republicans who voted against the 3-week clean DHS funding deal] are more worried about protecting their own careers than protecting their constituents from ISIL,” one Republican lawmaker “close to Boehner” anonymously told Politico. “They are more worried about primaries than they are about the country. This is all aimed at Boehner. They want to take Boehner out.”
“It would take a big uprising to do something and right now, I mean, I think really, truly Boehner is a stabilizing force,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA), another member close to Boehner, told Politico. “We’ll see what happens. Next Friday will be a big day. Next week will be a big week. We’ll see what he can do.”
Boehner’s closest allies have been attempting to lay blame for the eventual funding of Obama’s executive amnesty on everyone from House Democrats to Senate Democrats to Senate Republicans—but it’s clear to everyone involved that all of this fight at the beginning of this year has all been for show, and the real cave happened when the so-called “cromnibus” passed the House in December.
With the Senate still under Democratic control in that lame duck session, Boehner and his allies including House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers forced through a 1,771-page $1.1 trillion spending bill that funded all of government except for DHS through the end of September.
Not one member of Congress read that bill before voting on it, as it was impossible to do so based on the length of it in the short time frame they had to do so. But giving up leverage of the full government’s funding back then set the stage for this fight, and moving forward it’s going to be difficult for Boehner to explain that surrender when there were enough votes at the time for a clean CR until the beginning of the new Congress for the full government. The real question when all this is said and done is whether Boehner successfully prevents himself from being blamed—and whether he avoids accountability for enabling Obama’s executive amnesty.