Diary

Rep. Hal Rogers Is Attempting To Commit Legislative Suicide

House Appropriations Chairman [mc_name name=’Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’R000395′ ] is seeking to pass an omnibus spending bill which would fund the government for the rest of this year-and the next year too. This is in opposition to many of his conservative colleagues, led by [mc_name name=’Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’S000018′ ], who would prefer to pass a continuing resolution to finish out the year and then approve spending for 2015 with a Republican-controlled Senate providing its input. The proposed continuing resolution would also include a rider preventing dictatorial amnesty (“executive” makes such actions sound legitimate and shouldn’t be used).

Said Salmon on the omnibus bill:

“It’s really tragic that before we even fight a fight, or even stake a claim that we’re throwing in the towel. I just don’t think that’s the way to operate. We don’t have to talk about ultimatum scenarios at this point in time.”

According to Rogers,

“The only way that they would argue to do a CR is try to stymie [Obama] from issuing his executive order, but that’s a shutdown scenario. I’ve always heard that you should not take a hostage that you can’t shoot, and if it passed the House and Senate it would be vetoed.”

Rogers is so scared of another government shutdown he has ceased to think critically. First of all, if the Democratic-controlled Senate blocked the continuing resolution, it would be their obstruction in the eye of the public and they would have to own it. But if even if Republicans were to receive some backlash, the next set of elections are about two years away and any blame for the shutdown would be long-forgotten in political terms. Second, as Republican leaders have promised to work on immigration reform, Obama would be taking an enormous risk with his political capital (and that of the Democratic party) if he caused a shutdown just to bypass working with a Republican Congress on immigration. Third, were a shutdown to occur, whatever the likelihood, it would be worth it in the short and long runs if it stopped dictatorial amnesty.

Finally, and maybe most importantly, why would Republicans forfeit half of their two year window to use the entire Congress to craft acceptable budgets?

As [mc_name name=’Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S001141′ ] put it, “[mc_name name=’Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’R000146′ ] shouldn’t be entitled to bind the country next year when we get a new Congress.” Unfortunately, his colleague from Alabama and ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, [mc_name name=’Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S000320′ ], is joining Rogers in undercutting conservatives with his support for the omnibus bill.

Sessions has provided an excellent explanation on just why it is important to not pass the omnibus bill in his recent POLITICO op-ed:

President Obama’s executive amnesty will not be easy to execute. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will have to be ordered to redirect funds and personnel away from its statutorily mandated enforcement duties and towards processing applications, amnesty benefits, and employment authorizations for illegal immigrants and illegal overstays. It is a massive and expensive operation.

And it cannot be implemented if Congress simply includes routine language on any government funding bill prohibiting the expenditure of funds for this unlawful purpose. This is the same way we prevented the President from closing Guantanamo Bay. Such application of congressional power is ordinary, unexceptional, and used thousands of times.

Congress has the power of the purse. The President cannot spend a dime unless Congress appropriates it.

Karl Rove, who himself has advocated for amnesty, urged Congress to use its spending power to block the President’s fiat. He said Republicans should “use every tool available,” and put “riders on appropriations bills that say no money shall be spent to execute this policy.”

Yet reports have surfaced of plans to pass a long-term lame-duck spending bill through Harry Reid’s Senate that contains no such prohibition. This would be unthinkable.

Why would any member of Congress who opposes executive amnesty provide President Obama the funds to carry it out? A Republican majority must force congressional Democrats to answer this question through their votes.

We cannot surrender Congress’ most powerful Constitutional tool before a single newly elected Republican is sworn-in. Acting in this manner would betray the very voters who gave us this majority before we’re even in possession of it.

[mc_name name=’Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000603′ ] also laid out a strategy for getting through until the next session begins, arguing for passing twelve individual appropriations bills and agreeing that the power of the purse is the best tool to stop dictatorial amnesty:

We should do appropriations bills. If they have to do one for a month until they can tide it over—or a couple months—maybe, but even that, I’m not for spending the same amount of money we spend because the money we spend now has led to a $17.5 trillion debt. So what I would say is—this is what I will say in my caucus—there are twelve appropriations bills, and we should work on all twelve.

If we were to pass all twelve of the appropriations bills, we’d have an enormous amount of power. But if you wait and pass them all into one enormous omnibus bill, you have no power. If it’s wait until “shut the government down or don’t shut the government down,” then everybody’s tendency is “let’s just keep it going so we don’t get blamed for shutting the government down.” But as a consequence, we keep spending money and borrowing money at a million dollars a minute. But I think it’s important we do the appropriations bills, and I will argue in my caucus that we should do every appropriations bill.

So I think that to grant amnesty by executive order is illegal because I think that’s writing legislation, changing the legislation of the current law by the President’s executive fiat or order. So we should try to stop him. We should try to direct his behavior to bring him back within the bounds of the law. How we do that, I think, needs to be worked out. Our caucus will be discussing it. The people on the Appropriations Committee have more power than the people not on the Appropriations Committee. We’ll have to work through it. I think if you talk to most Republicans in the Senate, new or old, I think you’ll find a lot of them really do want to use the power of the purse to restrain this President from acting in an arrogant and illegal way.

Now is the time for conservatives in the House to put the screws on leadership and demand two things: first, that dictatorial amnesty must be stopped and two, that the next (Republican) Congress should not be constrained by the current (gridlocked) Congress.