GOP plots pathetic new ways to pester Obama: Don't let him give a State of the Union!

GOP leaders are trying to determine how best to express rage at King Obama. Some options are funnier than others

Published November 25, 2014 7:12PM (EST)

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell                                                            (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
John Boehner, Mitch McConnell (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The best indication that there won't be a government shutdown this December is what's going on in congressional office buildings: retiring/defeated members are moving out of their old offices, and newbies are moving into their new offices. If December was going to be marked by brinkmanship and legislative theatrics, they'd probably keep things the way they were until the looming battles were resolved. But they want to get it all wrapped up and return home for the holidays. Congress will spend about a week in December signing off on a few remaining items, maybe spend a morning heckling Jonathan Gruber, and then recharge their batteries for what's sure to be another exhausting year of nothingness and gridlock and "messaging votes."

So, first: What to do about that funding the government business? "House Republican leaders are beginning to coalesce around a strategy to avoid a government shutdown in less than a month," Politico reports. That strategy appears to be the simplest resolution to the conflict between the conference's hotheads who want to "defund Obama's executive amnesty" and the appropriators and leadership who wants to move their long-term omnibus spending package:

The likely proposal would fund nearly the entire government through September 2015, but immigration enforcement related funding would be renewed on a short-term basis, according to several high-ranking GOP lawmakers and aides who described the plan as it stands now.

The strategy is designed to keep the government open, while satisfying the base, which is livid with President Back Obama for issuing an executive order that ends deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants.

Sure, whatever. But will this be enough for the hotheads? On the one hand, they, being members of Congress, are probably not interested in working any more days than they have to, so they may be willing to go along with a plan that allows them to save face while kicking the problem into the new year. But the problem will still be around in the new year. Many times, apparently, if the idea is to vote on "immigration enforcement related funding" every 10 minutes. How many times will these Constitution-protecting Tea Party patriot members of Congress have to vote to Fund the Illegal Amnesty? Or will they just allow "immigration enforcement related funding" to lapse for an extended period of time?

The far-right elements will need some sort of bonus sweetener to go along with this plan. Politico lists several of the options floating around. You may have seen most of them by now. But there's one that we hadn't heard about yet. Can you guess? (HINT: It's the one we've put in bold.)

GOP aides and lawmakers say they expect the leadership to consider additional legislation to address the executive order, but there have been no decisions made on what those bills would look like. There are lots of ideas: Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has signaled he would hold up some of Obama’s executive branch nominees, others privately have been musing about shutting the government down, refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address or censuring the president. Many in congressional leadership think these ideas are nonsensical, since it will not serve any practical purpose.

Oh? Where did that idea come from? As best we can tell, its genesis is a Breitbart News column, because of course it is. Breitbart's Joel Pollak writes that Obama can just turn in his State of the Union on paper and members of Congress can read it into the record:

The State of the Union is provided for by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, governing the power of the president: "He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient...". Throughout American history, there are examples of presidents who have sent a written report rather than giving a speech.

Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his "executive amnesty" remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate--and would be far less jarring or uncomfortable than the hostile reception Obama would likely receive in person. In lieu of an address, Congress would offer to read aloud whatever document Obama saw fit to send through.

Hey, sounds good to me. Won't have to work that night. And "the public" will be happy not to have its television programs preempted. It is also possible, though, that this would come across as the most comically petty thing the Republican Party has done in the Obama era, and that says a lot.

It would be surprising if GOP leaders on Capitol Hill didn't invite President Obama to deliver his State of the Union address next year, although this GOP has surprised us before. Still, the formula for avoiding a shutdown while satisfactorily expressing rage seems to be aligning: Long-term omnibus + keeping immigration-related funding on a "short leash" + one other to-be-determined hilarious hand-waving stunt.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

MORE FROM Jim Newell