Wednesday, February 25, 2015

DHS Endgame? Not Yet.

The Sail Should Be Orange
McConnell seems poised to flip the Department of Homeland Security hot-potato back to John Boehner with a clean DHS funding bill that the House can either pass or reject. Boehner will have a number of options--none good.
  1. Refuse it and throw it back to the Senate. This is the safest for him personally (standing on principal)--but it will result in a shutdown of DHS with no clear path out (McConnell can go for the 5th attempt to break the Dem filibuster but there seems no reason that one will be the charm. He could go nuclear--but that seems almost worse).
  2. Try to convince House Republicans to pass it. This seems unlikely to succeed (see below: Trolling!).
  3. Try to pass the bill with some House Republicans and House Democrats (treason!).
None of these has a clear path out of the quagmire. The House Republicans, in real and serious danger of being primaried from the right probably will not cave. Throwing it back at McConnell just makes the party look divided when, to win the messaging war, it has to come together. Passing the bill in the House with Democrats would . . .  well, it would probably be the beginning of the end of Boehener as speaker and on the far tail end of probability . . . it might even break up the party.

Right now it looks like Boehner's hope is to go into a shutdown and try to win the public relations war with a reversal of fortune kicking in at some point.

That's not the worst of it though.

Obama--He Be Trollin'
In the putting out the fire with gasoline category we have Obama:
  1. Vetoing the Keystone-XL Pipeline bill. For no very good reason . . . and then . . . 
  2. Calling Illegal Immigrants "Americans In Waiting."
  3. McConnell has offered a clean bill--but the Senate Democrats aren't moving until he gets Boehner to agree to it. That's some bare-knuckle politics right there.
If The Omnivore didn't know better, The Omnivore would think that Obama was purposefully raising the heat levels with the GOP base. The question would be: "Why?"

The most likely outcome of an enraged base plus a DHS shutdown is that the public gets very grumpy at Republicans after a few weeks of the people not being paid (especially since every delay at an airport will now be blamed on the shutdown whether it is true or not). The Omnivore thinks that a shutdown can't go on more than 3 weeks before TSA people (and other DHS personnel) go to find other jobs . . .  so they can eat (which also turns out to be 'essential').

At that point either (a) McConnell uses the "Nuclear Option"--which would likely be a disaster for GOP Public Relations outside their base--and would lead to a certain amount of political chaos or (b) Boehner caves and passes whatever he can with moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Could Obama be trying to use this to break the back of the GOP? It's not impossible--when he won they 'hoped he would fail.' Now, perhaps, that they have taken over Congress, Obama is willing to apply pressure to see if they'll fail. 

Consider that Obama's stated reason for the veto was that Republicans were trying to get around the infrastructure process. Perhaps technically true (perhaps not--The Omnivore has no idea)--but certainly if things were warmer between him and congress--and he was not being hounded by the ecology activists over it--he certainly could have approved it. It's not like it was undoing Obamacare or anything. It was bi-partisan, reasonably popular, and the first piece of legislation the new congress passed (it was 'SB1'). 

The Ambush Scenario
While options 1-3 aren't good for Boehner, there's a 4th from McConnell-land that might be: The Ambush Scenario.
Once Democrats agree to get on the bill, the fate of the legislation is out of their hands. Fifty-one votes, all Republicans, will be all it takes to add new amendments to the bill. McConnell has promised Democrats a clean bill, but the minority is wary of what the rest of his conference will do. With conservative blogs railing at McConnell over the deal, Sessions overtly criticizing the leader's strategy and some of the conference's members planning to meet with the party's most vocal activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference later this week, Democrats worry that McConnell's resolve could crumble.
The Omnivore isn't sure exactly how this plays out. It looks like a clean bill comes out with Democrats approval--but then McConnell breaks 'his word' and allows a bunch of amendments which the Democrats then have to, as a bloc, refuse to allow. These would be directly against Obama's Amnesty (and probably the new Amnesty Executive Orders--which are more controversial and, by targeting only those, look more compromisey).

If the debate goes south (from the Democrats perspective) the messaging could shift to "The Dems got a GOOD DEAL and shut down DHS because they wouldn't compromise AT ALL." That's what can't happen--if it does, some Democrats might defect.

Of course this is all theoretical: McConnell, if he does ambush them like that, after giving his word not to, would burn both credibility and any shred of good will remaining. It seems unlikely unless he is effectively forced into it.

This is a rock and a hard-place for John Boehner if McConnell passes a clean bill in the Senate. Boehner knows better than most that the public's perception was never solid on this to begin with--and won't get better as a shutdown drags on unless something changes. Boehner doesn't have a lot of tools to force something to change so he's unlikely to want to go into that blind alley. In the land of no good options, the man with the shitty--but not utterly suicidal--option is king. That might be McConnell.

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