Politics

McConnell Separates Anti-Amnesty Push From Homeland Security Funding

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

The Senate Republican leadership is breaking off language blocking President Obama’s amnesty from a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security in 2015, worrying some activists who fear that the leaders are giving up their unenthusiastic effort to defund the immigration rewrite.

“I’m going to begin proceedings on targeted legislation that would only address the most recent overreach from November,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a late Monday statement.

“It isn’t tied to DHS’ funding,” McConnell added.

That’s a strategic victory for President Barack Obama, and for Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the 46-vote Democratic minority in the Senate.

Since November, Reid and Democratic senators have filibustered four times a vote on the GOP’s anti-amnesty language that is included in the draft 2015 budget for the Department of Homeland Security.

McConnell’s retreat shows that Reid “controls the Senate to such an extent that he can force Republicans to abandon an extremely popular position, which is also the constitutional position,” a Hill aide told The Daily Caller.

However, the Hill aide said, McConnell is revealing little about his plans, and he just might be still trying to pass the anti-amnesty language. For example, McConnell could hold a special vote on the amnesty-defunding language that is not part of a DHS budget bill. If he gets the 60 votes needed to trump the Democrats’ filibuster, he could later combine the anti-amnesty and DHS bills back into one bill.

But that theory “requires a leap of faith,” the Hill aide said. “A more accurate interpretation is that McConnell is paving the way for the DHS bill that [Democrats] have called for,” because it won’t include the amnesty-defunding language.

Obama’s executive amnesty would provide work permits, tax rebates and Social Security cards to roughly 5 million illegals.

Prior polls suggest those Democratic goals are unpopular among the Republican voters who put McConnell and other GOP leaders into power, and the voters who will be needed in 2016. A recent poll showed that the public rated Obama’s handling of immigration as his least popular category.

The voters’ pressure has forced the GOP leadership to demonstrate some opposition to Obama’s amnesty. For example, in January, voters prodded the House GOP caucus to pass an appropriations bill that fully funds the Department of Homeland Security until October 2015, and also includes language that defunds Obama’s amnesty plans.

McConnell and other top Republicans have argued on the basis of constitutional propriety. For example, McConnell said before the Feb. 23 vote that Democrats should support the DHS bill — complete with the amnesty defunding language — because it would bolster the rule of law in the United States.

“It is time to allow this Homeland Security funding measure to come to the floor. … This is our colleagues’ chance to do exactly what they led their constituents to believe they’d do: defend the rule of law, without more excuses,” he said.

In contrast, the Democrats’ media blitz — boosted by emotional arguments, polls, activist groups and a sympathetic media — have prompted several members of the 54-seat GOP caucus to quit opposing Obama’s amnesty.

Democrats have been “more aggressive in messaging their case and forcing discipline in the members,” the Hill aide told TheDC. For example, they’ve argued that the GOP is planning to shut down DHS despite jihad threats, and that the GOP is “holding a gun to the head” of the American people.

“McConnell is not willing to articulate a policy argument against amnesty, and therefore, he’s engaging is a form of unilateral rhetorical disarmament,” said the Hill staffer.

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