The Slatest

Senate Democrats Smell Something Rotten in the GOP’s DHS Funding Deal

“It’s in your hands, Mr. Senate Majority Leader” doesn’t have quite the same ring.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Senate Democrats think they smell something rotten in Senate Republicans’ last-minute proposal to pass a clean funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, throwing a wrench Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desparate plan to avert a political disaster. The GOP, you may recall, had hoped to pass a funding bill that would block President Barack Obama’s perfectly legal executive order deferring deportation for about 5 million immigrants. Most Senate Democrats balked, and Republicans geared up for a fight. With the clock ticking, however, Republican Senators claim to have changed their mind, and are now willing to vote on two separate bills: One to fund DHS, and one to block Obama’s executive order. But the Democratic leadership doesn’t appear eager to play nice just yet. From the Huffington Post:

[T]he plan was quickly questioned by Democratic leaders, who said they don’t want to move forward on even a clean DHS funding bill unless there are assurances from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he’s on board.

“We have to make sure that we get a bill to the president, not that we send a hot potato to Boehner,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference.

“I don’t know what’s not to like about this,” McConnell said at a separate press conference. “This is an approach that respects both points of view and gives senators an opportunity to go on record on both funding the Department of Homeland Security and expressing their opposition to what the president did last November.”

He told reporters he did not know what the House would do. House Republicans will meet on Wednesday morning to discuss plans.

Actually, what’s obviously “not to like” about this strategy is that the bill may be killed by fiercely conservative House Republicans—leaving Senate Democrats in dire straits and putting further pressure on them to support a bill that blocks Obama’s executive order. It is possible, though, that McConnell’s olive branch represents a good-faith effort: Given that a federal judge has halted the new policy on absurd legal grounds, Republicans may be less zealous to stop it as soon as possible. 

There is, by the way, one overarching piece of irony in this strange tale. As my colleague Josh Voorhees recently explained:

If DHS funding does expire, it won’t specifically undercut Obama’s immigration reforms (which are self-funded by application fees) but it will harm a handful of programs that have traditionally been Republican favorites. The E-Verify program, which was created to help employers filter out undocumented immigrants from their pool of new hires, would be halted. The department also wouldn’t be able to upgrade “obsolete remote video surveillance systems” near the Texas-Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley, where Republicans have long wanted to beef up security. And, while the Secret Service would still protect the president, the much-maligned agency wouldn’t get the $50 million it needs to help protect the emerging field of 2016 hopefuls and complete the agency overhaul that the GOP has been demanding.