Republican Senate leaders say they will try feebly to pass the House’s must-pass budget bill, complete with its popular anti-amnesty curbs.
But they’re also signaling to the Democratic establishment and the media that their part of the joint effort to pass the funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security will be insincere and half-hearted.
And also tepid. Perfunctory and listless, lackluster, apathetic and unenthusiastic.
“We’re going try to pass it,” the GOP’s new majority leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell, told reporters Thursday. “If we’re unable to do that, we’ll see what happens.”
One of his deputies surrendered any political leverage by promising to fund the agency once the Democrats block the popular anti-amnesty spending rules. “Under no circumstances will we see any shutdowns,” said John Cornyn, the GOP’s Senate whip, told the reporters. “No more drama. … That’s off the table.”
The underlying GOP split was revealed by President Barack Obama’s determination to boost immigration.
Congress failed to pass his immigration rewrite in 2013 and 2014. So he announced in November that he would grant work permits and other benefits to roughly five million illegals who have birthed children in the United States.
In December, House Speaker John Boehner pushed through a bill that funds the agency and the amnesty until late February.
In January, however, he bent under pressure from the GOP base, which strongly opposes the amnesty, and allowed GOP legislators to pass a February-to-October funding bill for the department that would also bar it from implementing Obama’s various amnesty plans.
Obama has threatened to veto the House’s bill if the Senate sends it to his desk.
That veto would not shut down the agency, because law enforcement officers would keep working.
But the funding cut-off would allow Obama’s aides to create apparent border security problems and then use their media allies to blame the GOP for those problems.
The new Republican majority of 54 senators doesn’t want to fight Obama on the amnesty issue.
The Senate’s actions are all for show, not to win, another GOP leader suggested.
“Obviously we want to give our members an opportunity to vote to express their opposition to the president’s action but we also realize at the end of the day in the Senate it’s going to take 60 votes,” Sen. John Thune told reporters at the joint House and Senate GOP retreat in Hershey, Pa.
“We want to be able to give our members in the Senate an opportunity to vote as the House members did. … There may be different ways and approaches to this issue that we can get the point across,” said Thune.
But the Senate leaders can’t pass a bill without agreement from House Republicans, who want to block the amnesty. If Senate Republicans doesn’t try to pass a bill that the House legislators support, it will create a fight between the House and Senate GOP caucuses.
Democrats are happy to see GOP leaders and legislators divided over Obama’s amnesty.
There’s no evidence that top GOP leaders will use the media to blame Obama for the budget problem, or even to say that he puts a higher priority on amnestying illegal immigrants than protecting Americans from foreign threats or cheap migrant labor, a Hill staffer said.
The leaders’ underlying goal, the staffer said, is to get the immigration issue out of the news before it transforms he 2016 primaries into a populist battle between the GOP establishment and GOP voters.
“The goal is to find a path to victory [in 2016] without the base, and the best way to do that is to make the [campaign] issue about anything other than immigration,” the staffer said.
That diversion won’t be easy, he said, because the public opposes the amnesty and the GOP overwhelmingly opposes the amnesty, which is planned to begin in February.
A Pew survey released Dec. 11 showed that 82 percent of Republicans oppose Obama’s plan, which was announced Nov. 20. Only 15 percent of Republicans approve of the plan. Strong opinions were even more lopsided, 71 percent very strongly against, seven percent very strongly for.
A Fox News survey released Dec. 11 said 90 percent of Republicans opposed Obama bypassing Congress to make [immigration enforcement] changes.” Only nine percent of Republicans endorsed the Obama bypass around the constitution.
However, a lawsuit in Texas by officials from 25 states might deep-six Obama’s unilateral amnesty for months or permanently. The judge held a hearing on Jan. 15, and will likely announce in February whether to block the amnesty.