Right Opinion

Amnesty Showdown

Arnold Ahlert · Dec. 3, 2014

On Tuesday, Republicans met behind closed doors to plot their response to President Obama’s unilateral decision to grant de facto amnesty and work permits to five million illegal aliens. That response centers around the House’s control of government spending, and according to sources that contacted Breitbart news, the GOP rank-and-file will be setting the agenda. “It’s not just for show,” said Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ). “[Party leaders] don’t want to get something to the floor and then have some big rebellion, they really want to get it right the first time. And they’ve learned the hard way that the way to do that is to build everything from the bottom up instead of shoving it from the top down.”

A number of different options are being considered, but all of them are seemingly aimed at avoiding a government shutdown. That’s because a government shutdown of any kind, regardless of who initiated it, is invariably blamed on the GOP, according to inside-the-beltway thinking.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer illuminated that reasoning Monday on Fox’s “Special Report” with Bret Baier. “There’s reality, and there’s the way reality is reported in the media,” he explained.

We know that you’re right, if there were a government shutdown under these circumstances, it would be Obama being the one shutting it down with a veto. However, we also know that as night follows day, it will be reported everywhere as a Republican shutdown and they will suffer as they suffered last October, 2013, and it was a disaster. Republicans are finally ahead of Democrats in the poll about who do you favor, and this would be the worst time to blow it.

However, one cannot discount the impact the previous government shut down had on the 2014 elections – which was seemingly not very much. The GOP picked up at least 8 Senate seats to capture a majority and 11 House seats to strengthen one.

On the other hand, there is little doubt the media would indeed blame Republicans for any shutdown. Most Republicans apparently understand this and were said to be discussing a normal “omnibus” spending bill, a hybrid “cromnibus” bill that provides a temporary funding extension for immigration, and a number of options for each. The omnibus part of the package would fund most of the government at current spending levels for ten months through September 15, while the cromnibus portion provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the government agency that oversees service related to immigration, funding for only a few months. House Speaker Boehner (R-OH) envisions a two-step process for passage, holding a vote on the omnibus bill this week, and the cromnibus bill next week.

One of the options being considered was introduced late last month by staunch conservative Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL). The sophomore lawmaker proposed a bill that would rescind the discretion by the executive branch to exempt entire categories of illegal aliens from prosecution and deportation. Though the gesture is chiefly symbolic, Boehner and other GOP leaders have reportedly embraced it as a way to simultaneously assuage conservative GOPers concerns with Obama’s unconstitutional overreach, and move them away from demanding a government shutdown.

In addition, Salmon wants to add language to the omnibus bill preventing the president from issuing work visas to illegals. It is an omnibus package House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said would include 11 appropriation bills, with the separate funding for the DHS maintained on a continuing resolution (CR) that would last until “sometime in March.”

Time is of the essence. The current emergency funding keeping the government open expires on Dec. 11, giving the GOP six more days to get their strategic ducks in a row. And despite their cleverness, they still must contend with the reality that outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will scuttle any effort that would accrue to the GOP’s benefit. While Reid agreed to consider a spending package that only funds DHS through March, he said he would only do so if the deal didn’t include any riders unacceptable to his party.

Reid stood in stark contrast to the position taken by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee. She insisted it would be “dangerous and irresponsible to engage in stunts and gimmicks affecting funding for the agencies under the Department of Homeland Security.” She was echoed by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who testified at a House hearing Tuesday morning. He claimed temporary funding would make it harder to run his department in an efficient manner. As for Obama, White House Press Secretary John Earnest said the president would prefer a bill covering all spending for the entire year. But he refused to say whether the president would veto a bill with short-term funding for the DHS.

Both Houses of Congress are scheduled to go on recess December 12, but Reid warned the Senate that it might be necessary to extend their time in Washington through Dec. 19. “We have a lot to do and not a lot of time to accomplish it,” Reid said.

One effort is aimed at passing a short-term extension of approximately 50 tax breaks benefiting businesses, individuals and nonprofits. The vast majority of them expired at the end of 2013. The extension would last only until the end of the year, but that would allow those breaks to be claimed during next year’s tax-preparation period. The move was precipitated by a veto threat from Obama, undermining a two-year, $400 billion deal being worked out between Reid and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). It would have extended some of those tax breaks for two years and others indefinitely. “We were making really good progress until the president issued a veto threat,” Camp said Monday. “That brought a halt to everything.”

Obama objected to the deal because he considered it too favorable to business, and because it failed to extend an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit set to expire in 2017. The GOP contends those tax breaks have been illegally exploited by taxpayers and illegal aliens fraudulently claiming those credits, further insisting Obama’s recent action on immigration exacerbated the problem. Hence the House’s $45 billion extension, which could be voted on as early as today.

Democrats have mixed feelings regarding the proposed legislation. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) remained non-committal, Committee member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA) was adamantly against it, and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, was in favor.

In other words, like everything else being proposed here, the outcome remains in limbo.

Some GOP conservatives still remained wedded to addressing Obama’s lawlessness, regardless of the consequences. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) wants even a short-term extension for the DHS to cut off funding for the president’s immigration agenda, even if the government shuts down as a result. "It isn’t us bringing about a shutdown,“ he insisted. "We fund everything else, and then the president has to argue that he’s going to shutdown the government in order for him to carry out his lawless, unconstitutional act.”

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wasn’t buying it. “We need to quit, you know, kind of rattling the economy with things that are perceived by the voters as disturbing,” he told a Washington conference.

Voters themselves apparently agree. A Qunnipiac poll released Nov. 25 shows they oppose shutting down “major activities of the federal government” as a means of blocking Obama’s agenda by a 68-25 percent margin. Even Republican voters oppose the idea by a 47-44 percent margin. “Americans seem divided on immigration, but they agree on one thing: They don’t want a government shutdown over President Obama’s action on immigration,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Those same voters, however, mostly oppose Obama’s immigration agenda. Democrats favor it by a 74-18 percent margin, but Republicans and independent voters oppose it by margins of 75-20 percent, and 51-40 percent, respectively. In short, ambivalence prevails.

How long it prevails is hard to say. Much of it depends on how far next year’s GOP congressional majority is willing to go to illuminate the ideological differences between the two parties, and whether they are willing to frame an agenda, or continue reacting to the one proposed by Obama and a Democrat minority.

Immigration aside, it is worth noting that on Monday, America’s national debt reached $18 trillion. That number represents a 70 percent increase in the debt amassed during Obamas’s tenure. On Tuesday it was revealed Social Security will become insolvent by 2024. That’s 34 years earlier than originally projected. In other words, we remain on an unsustainable trajectory, one driven overwhelmingly by the exponential expansion of government championed by Democrats. Spending cuts aren’t popular, but genuine statesmen propose ideas that put the good of the nation above the good of the party. Embracing such statesmanship seems like a pretty good point of departure for next year’s GOP majority. If nothing else it would stand in stark contrast to the president’s me-first agenda and a Democratic party extremely comfortable with putting its own interests above those of the nation.

Originally published at FrontPage Magazine.

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