- - Monday, December 8, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Conservatives in Congress are steaming, and with good reason. If the 113th Congress, now on its deathbed but still twitching and making dying sounds, doesn’t appropriate the money needed to keep the government operating until the deadline at the end of the week, the government will have to shut down. This is something the Republican leaders in both the House and Senate vow they will avoid by whatever means necessary.

The Republicans have been there before, and they don’t want to go there again. The leaders are not very adept at making their case, and they’ll get no help in the media, where there is such an eagerness never to give the Republicans an even break. That’s just an occupational hazard for a Republican leader. There’s no point in whining about it, but no point in surrender, either.

The dilemma that John Boehner, the speaker of the House, faces is that conservatives in the House want to include measures to thwart President Obama’s immigration amnesty, and if these measures are included in House appropriations measures, the Senate — it’s still a Democratic Senate, ruled over by Harry Reid — will balk.

So, Mr. Boehner and his leadership team are keeping secret the details of the modified “omnibus” bill the House will vote on later this week. Mr. Boehner has refused to send the bill to the floor lest conservatives add language that he, Mr. Reid and President Obama would call obnoxious.

Conservatives within Mr. Boehner’s caucus argue that if he enables the restrictions they seek, the Republicans will be on record as doing what they, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and other prominent Republicans promised they would do to stop the president from ignoring the Constitution and the law to impose his version of immigration “reform.”

They acknowledge that the Senate would strip the provisions from a version that would pass and get a presidential signature, and they would ultimately have to vote for a version without these restrictions just to keep the government open. Including them would have forced Senate Democrats to defend the President’s veto or make it clear that they and the President would welcome a shutdown that most Americans oppose.

It’s probably too late now, thanks to Speaker Boehner’s willingness — even eagerness — to run out the clock on his own caucus — and to “play nice” with Democrats who are never eager to play nice with him. He should have worried instead to play nice with his own conservative members who were seeking the opportunity to make it clear to the American people that the Republicans are serious about keeping their promises, and to keep faith with the Constitution they have sworn to uphold.

If the speaker had allowed the legislation to go to the floor and be sent to the Senate with the restrictions, he would have had a chance to let the American people know that he is serious, too, without risking the shutdown of the government he fears.

Instead, he and his team crafted what they have dubbed a “crominbus” which continues funding for most of the government through next September, but funds the Department of Homeland Security only through February to give the new Congress a chance to consider restrictions without risking a governmentwide shut down. Wiser leaders would have demanded more now and would certainly have been able to predict that come next February, the Democrats would be in the awkward position of arguing that by risking a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security the nation would have to drop its guard in the face of the terrorist threat against the homeland.


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