House Republican leaders appear to be riding an immigration seesaw. One minute they’re attaching extreme amendments to the DHS appropriations bill to placate the Steve King wing of their conference, the next minute they’re readying a “Plan B” in case those provisions get rejected by the Senate. Here’s POLITICO on the stakes that Republican leaders are currently weighing:
Top Republicans are exploring ways of escaping their political jam on immigration, with steps that could avoid a funding cutoff for the Department of Homeland Security while letting conservatives vent their anger at President Barack Obama.
Among the possible Plan B’s: Republicans could pass a new bill to beef up security at the U.S.-Mexico border. They could sue to overturn Obama’s unilateral protections for millions of undocumented immigrants. Or they could pass yet another short-term DHS funding measure, giving the GOP more time to approve a strategy. Either way, Republican leaders hope to reach a deal that would allow Homeland Security funding to continue past Feb. 27, without making it appear to their right flank that they are caving to the White House.
Enter Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, who quite conveniently has scheduled a mark-up on his new border security bill for this afternoon. Clearly, GOP leaders want McCaul’s bill available to serve as a compromise sweetener on the DHS appropriations bill if and when they end up dumping the language blocking immigration executive actions.
It’s an insurance policy, of sorts, to fend off attacks from the Steve King crowd. Please. They won’t be happy until mass deportation is law of the land. And GOP leaders have already empowered them for too long. Again from POLITICO:
But lawmakers and groups advocating for stricter immigration controls have already panned the McCaul legislation, arguing it doesn’t go far enough to address the root causes of illegal migration. It’s near-certain they will dismiss any efforts to attach that bill to DHS funding as an insufficient response to Obama’s actions.
“Unfortunately, border legislation being marked up on Wednesday in the House Homeland Security Committee again fails to include the measures necessary to fulfill its promises,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), arguing that McCaul’s legislation ensures that “large amounts of illegal immigration will continue unabated.”
Asked about the criticism Tuesday, McCaul said: “Securing the border is the No. 1 priority in my district and my state, and we’re going to get it done.”
As further proof that this strategy won’t work with hard-liners, here’s a tweet from a top staffer at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) — the entity that sold Mitt Romney on “self-deportation”:
McCaul to Introduce Secure Borders First Act,but it’s meaningless until catch & release ends & illegals cant get jobs http://t.co/Ev4lJepGBJ
And, from a right-wing pundit:
The McCaul border bill is supported by Pelosi and will be signed by Obama bec. it never verifies anything tangible and paves road 2 amnesty — Daniel Horowitz (@RMConservative) January 16, 2015
(For the hard-core right wingers,”supported by Pelosi” and “signed by Obama” have to be two of the most toxic things that can be said about a piece of legislation, whether that’s even true or not.)
Last December, Speaker Boehner and (now) Majority Leader McConnell set themselves up for this debate over Obama’s executive action on immigration by not including funding for the Department of Homeland Security in the omnibus bill. They guaranteed another debate on immigration — and they’re having it within their party. Boehner has let the Steve King wing of the GOP set their immigration agenda, and now he’s in a bind. McCaul’s bill won’t appease the mass deportation crowd. If Republicans actually do want to pass an appropriation that funds the Department of Homeland Security (and incredibly, that’s still an open question), they’ll have to strip the bill clean of any poisonous riders and pass a clean bill that can earn bipartisan support. That’s the real Plan B.
Also, the McCaul bill does nothing to address the real issue of what to do with 11 million undocumented immigrants. That’s the other part of the problem for GOP leaders. Instead of addressing that issue by passing the Senate comprehensive bill in the last Congress, House Republicans keep voting to maximize deportations. Republicans are only digging themselves into a deeper hole with Latino voters and others who care deeply about immigration.
In other words, this is a failed strategy all around.