Picking a Hostage We Can Shoot

Of course, it’s not the Republican party that made DHS funding a hostage in the fight over Obama’s executive order on immigration.  That was a decision of Democratic senators.  But it’s hardly shocking this happened, and that put the Republican Congress in a ridiculous position.  Americans don’t really want to cut off money to DHS.  How does letting that happen help the Republican brand?  It’s not realistic to think Obama gets more than half the blame here, and he doesn’t have to worry about future elections.  Republicans do, and conservative hardliners don’t make an electoral majority.

So if we’re going to be outraged, let’s be outraged about the tactics that led us here, rather than our inevitable retreat.  If we’re going to be demanding, let’s demand that full-year DHS funding be tied to something that not only hurts Obama, but also is small enough that he’d look silly vetoing it.   Without some semblance of the moral high ground, Congressional Democrats can’t keep defending this unpopular order.

Let’s take an example.  One of the executive perks is bringing their own people into federal agencies.  Obama’s executive order makes him unworthy of that much control.  How about defunding only these political positions in the DHS?  The typical American couldn’t care less if some assistant secretaries get furloughed, and the short-term impact to DHS seems near-zero.  But that’s a big rebuke to Obama’s plans, and one that reverberates lower in the organization.  No executive order can make the illegal legal.  It seems possible that civil servants who help create illegal work permits could lose their jobs in a later administration.  If Congress takes enough action to make that threat credible, Obama’s going to have a much harder time implementing his order.

It’s true that wouldn’t be the complete repudiation we sought in the House bill.  But we’re not getting a complete repudiation legislatively while Obama has his veto pen.  That’s going to have to be left to the judiciary.  But Congress throws plenty of monkey wrenches into the works just from unintended consequences.  Witness the federal procurement system.  Imagine what Congress can do if it tries.