Government & Politics

Will GOP Fight Amnesty?

House Republicans voted Wednesday to defund Barack Obama's amnesty plan.

Jan. 15, 2015

Following in the footsteps of John Kerry’s famous “I was for it before I was against it” approach to governing, House Republicans voted Wednesday to defund Barack Obama’s amnesty plan – that is, after they voted in December to fund it.

Lacking the anatomical necessities required to take a stand against the president’s abuse of the executive office, Republican leadership last year opted to support Obama’s amnesty plan through the “CRomnibus” bill that funded through Feb. 27 the Department of Homeland Security – the agency responsible for carrying out Obama’s immigration action. They justified the vote with the promise that, come this year, they’d vote to defund amnesty. Forever the optimists, they apparently believed Santa would bring them their long-lost backbone for Christmas.

With February looming, Republican leadership has decided to drum up some courage and vote to halt the egregious executive overreach. And they’re serious this time. No, really. Honest. Sort of. Well, maybe. Okay, maybe not so much.

By a vote of 236-191, with 10 Republicans voting nay and two Democrats yea, the House passed a bill funding DHS through September while cutting off money for Obama’s executive actions, which effectively granted amnesty to five million illegal aliens.

Addressing the lower chamber, House Speaker John Boehner said, “Today I rise, and the House rises, to support and defend our Constitution. … This executive overreach is an affront to the Rule of Law and to the Constitution itself. … [W]hat we are dealing with is a president who has ignored the people, has ignored the Constitution, and even his own past statements. … Enough is enough. By their votes last November, the people made clear they want more accountability from this president. And by our votes here today, we will heed their will, and we will keep our oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

Boehner pointed to at least 22 instances when the president himself stated he did not have the authority to act unilaterally. Indeed, on one occasion Obama explained, “I am not a dictator. I’m the president. … If in fact I could solve all these problems without passing laws in Congress then I would do so. … I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.” If by “execute” he means kill, dismember and bury existing laws in order to make up his own, he’s spot on.

Unfortunately, the House passage of the bill may turn out to be little more than symbolic. Senate Republican votes aren’t guaranteed, and, if it comes right down to fighting a promised presidential veto or funding DHS without defunding amnesty, even Republican border security stalwarts may buckle. For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, “We need to fund DHS. I think that’s high ground.”

Mark Krikorian of National Review notes, “[T]he way we’ll know how serious Mitch McConnell is about trying to curb Obama’s lawlessness is whether he starts work on the bill right away or he sits on it, running out the clock on DHS funding to try to force conservatives[s] to capitulate.”

How serious is the Senate majority leader? McConnell said the Senate will focus on the bill in February – still weeks away – which hardly inspires confidence in the GOP establishment’s commitment to counter the president’s disdain for the Constitution.

Meanwhile, as the Senate waits, Democrats are practicing their talking points – specifically noting the optics of defunding DHS after the jihadi attacks in Paris. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said that after the “horrible, horrible terrorist attack took place in Paris … [y]ou’d think it would have heightened the urgency to pass a homeland security bill, but the Republicans still say no to passing a clean bill unless they can be a menace to immigration.”

And White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest lectured, “House Republicans … are mucking around with DHS funding just weeks before the funding deadline. … [T]here’s never a good time to muck around with the funding of the Department of Homeland Security, but given the events of the last week this seems like a particularly bad time to do so.” The Paris attacks didn’t warrant a presidential visit, but they’re fair game for his party’s political spin – including Earnest’s laughably backward charge that Republicans’ plan is “essentially a vote for amnesty.”

Given that the Senate appears poised to do nothing in the immediate future, you can be sure that Democrats will use the next several weeks to perfect this spin.

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