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A Little Perspective

My Congressman, Republican Thomas Massie, posted this to his FaceBook feed a few minutes ago:

The media has failed to fully explain what happened with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bills yesterday so I’ll offer my “front row seat” description. Please SHARE:

In December while Senator Reid was still majority leader in the Senate, Congress passed, and the President signed, a bill called the CR/Omnibus that funded all government for a year except for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Republican leadership in the House decided it would be best to fund DHS only until February 27th. We were promised this would allow a republican controlled Senate and House to craft a funding bill for DHS that would defund, and thereby stop, the President’s executive action on illegal immigration. This promise was instrumental in securing republican votes for the December CR/Omnibus.

Several weeks ago, per the plan, the House passed a full year funding bill for DHS that would have prevented the President’s executive action on illegal immigration from being implemented. This was hardly mentioned in the media. For their part, the Senate engaged in brinksmanship and waited until yesterday, February 27th, to pass their version of a bill to fund DHS for the year. For what it’s worth, the Senate bill would do absolutely nothing to stop the President’s executive action.

When the Senate and House both pass different versions of the same bill (in this case a DHS funding bill), and neither agrees to the text of the other chamber’s bill, typically the leadership of the two chambers appoint conferees who meet in a conference and hammer out a compromise bill. This compromise bill, also known as a conference bill, then returns to both chambers for an up or down vote.

Yesterday at 2:43pm the House took a good faith vote to go to conference and negotiate with the Senate. In a conference, it is understood that neither side will get everything it wants. A vote against going to conference is sometimes characterized in the media as obstructing the legislative process. I voted to go to conference, while every Democrat voted against going to conference. The motion to go to conference passed the House, but the Senate was unable or unwilling to pass a motion to go to conference. It is disappointing to me that the media didn’t report this important breakdown in the legislative process. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll102.xml)

Faced with a Senate that refused to negotiate, House leadership acquiesced and offered on the floor a bill identical to the Senate bill that did nothing to stop the President’s executive action on illegal immigration. However, this proposal limited DHS funding to 3 weeks instead of the full year. 52 House republicans, myself included, voted against the 3 week spending bill because it contained no guarantee that the Senate would vote to go to conference to negotiate a compromise bill before the temporary funding ran out. Although passage of the 3 week spending bill would have signaled retreat on the part of the Republicans, Democrats calculated that if they defeated the temporary spending bill, they could get the full year Senate bill passed yesterday, so they voted against the 3 week bill as well. The bill failed yesterday evening at 5:13pm. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll104.xml)

Immediately after this bill died, conservatives in the House offered to vote for a 3 week DHS funding bill if it contained the modest requirement that the Senate come to conference to negotiate a long term compromise bill. House republican leadership rejected the proposal from conservatives.

Faced with DHS funding expiring at midnight, yet unwilling to negotiate in conference, Senate leadership reached out to House republican leadership and minority leader Pelosi. The Senate offered to pass a one week version of their DHS bill that would do nothing to stop the President’s executive action, if minority leader Pelosi would guarantee all of the democrats’ votes in the House. House Democrats were told if they would vote for the temporary measure, then within a week Congress would pass a DHS bill that would allow the President’s executive action on illegal immigration to be carried out. A deal was struck, the Senate passed their version by unanimous consent and adjourned, leaving the House with no other options to avert a lapse in DHS funding. At 9:59pm the House passed the temporary Senate measure, although I joined 54 other conservative republicans in opposing it. (http://clerk.house.gov/evs/2015/roll106.xml)

In summary, using the power of the purse to keep the executive branch in check is a legitimate and constitutional strategy, but our republican leadership chose poorly last December when selecting security funding as a point of leverage. Having backed themselves into a corner, last night House republican leadership abandoned their own plan and struck a deal with minority leader Pelosi that gave the President what he wanted for at least another week. In my estimation, the long term prospect of using the power of the purse to stop the President’s unilateral action is bleak now that House leadership has signaled a temporary retreat without gaining a single concession from the Senate.

I support Congressman Massie and those who work to both hold congressional leadership’s feet to the fire and to try to limit the actions of a President who does not feel he is beholden to the other two branches of the government or to the American people.

The Legislature makes the law, the Executive implements the law, and the Judiciary interprets the law.  It’s just that simple.  When one of these branches goes beyond the limits of its power, it is right and proper that the other two branches cut it off.  Rolling over and exposing their soft underbelly is not why the American voter gave Congress back to the Republicans.  Stuff like this will only lead to a lot of us finding something better to do than voting Republican during the next election.

To Senator McConnell and Congressman Boehner, either stand by your guns, or let someone else relieve you.  You need to find a principle you’re willing to defend, or you better get used to being a minority party on a more regular basis.

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3 Comments

  1. nixfu

     /  February 28, 2015

    The mistake is thinking that DHS should be funded in the first place.

  2. Yeah, they folded like a cheap suit. I’m truly disgusted that they’ve failed in the basic thing they were voted in to do.

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