Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Senate Democrats Threaten to Filibuster DHS Funding

A letter released by the Senate Democratic Caucus expresses the willingness of all Senate Democrats to oppose any Department of Homeland Security funding measure that forbids the enforcement of the president's recent executive actions on immigration.  Citing worries about national security and the president's threat to veto any DHS measure that rebukes his power grab, Senate Democrats demand a "clean" funding bill.  This letter also expresses a hostility to short-term funding measures for DHS.

Leaving aside the irony of senators threatening to filibuster a bill they say is vital for national security, it is also worth noting that many Senate Democrats appear to be unwilling to walk the walk when it comes to defending congressional power.  In the past, at least six Senate Democrats and one independent have expressed opposition to, or at least skepticism of, the president's actions: Democrats Joe Donnelly (Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Manchin (W.V.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), and Jon Tester (Mont.), and independent Angus King (Maine).  Many more Democrats trumpeted the dangers of an out-of-control executive during the administration of George W. Bush, though many now seem to have changed their minds about the role of executive power.  Apparently, some Democrats are now, despite their earlier promises, becoming partisans of executive supremacy.

In response to this threat, Senate Republicans seem to have at least three options:

  • Call the Democrats' bluff and put forward a funding measure that pushes back against the president's power grab.  If Democrats do filibuster a national-security funding bill, let them pay the political price for that filibuster.  Republican leaders can then decide whether to offer a clean bill or to allow DHS to potentially "shut down."
  • Preemptively give into Democratic demands and immediately offer a clean funding bill.
  • Follow the strategy suggested by the editors at National Review: "Pass one bill to fund all of DHS except for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is responsible for implementing the president’s amnesty, and another bill that funds CIS but prohibits it from implementing the November amnesty."  Senate Democrats did not explicitly say that they would oppose that proposal, and splitting CIS from the rest of DHS funding would eliminate the "national security" argument.

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