Ted Cruz roils GOP again: The right's exciting blame-shifting, intra-party trolling

GOP leaders are going to have to fund Obama's executive actions eventually. Time to fling blame at each other!

Published February 4, 2015 5:17PM (EST)

John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell                                                                                                                                      (Reuters/Larry Downing/Adrees Latif/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
John Boehner, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell (Reuters/Larry Downing/Adrees Latif/AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire at the end of the month, and Republican congressional leaders still have no plan to extricate themselves from the latest corner they've occupied. Yesterday Senate Democrats (and a Republican) easily filibustered the House-passed DHS funding bill that would have undone both of President Obama's programs to temporarily shield certain undocumented immigrants from deportation. The tally was nine votes short of the 60 need to break the filibuster. For whatever reason, the Republicans may bring it up for another vote. If they're lucky, nine senators will change their mind for no apparent reason!... and then it will be vetoed.

It might be time for a rethink here. A rethink that's been expected from the moment House Republicans announced their aggressive DHS strategy -- or, really, from the moment last December that Congress punted the DHS question into the new year, at which point it would "take on" the President's Executive Amnesty with "reinforcements in the Senate." As John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and everyone else knew all along, the Republican reinforcement brigade would never reach the veto-proof supermajority needed to eliminate the president's signature immigration programs. But they bought themselves a few months anyway, hoping that, who knows, there might be some fundamental discovery upending the laws of mathematics by the end of February 2015? So far, no such luck.

Someone will need to break the bad news to conservatives that they are going to have to fund the dreaded amnesty machine. That the Republican party is not going to be able to undo it legislatively now or for the remainder of President Obama's term.

Who wants to give it a go?

Typically this has been the job of John Boehner. He was the one who had to break the news, repeatedly, because no one ever learns anything, that it is difficult to legislate your party's ideology into fruition when the other party controls the Senate and the White House. No matter how obvious this was each time, Boehner would have to endure streams of vitriol from conservatives about his bodily deformities: his weak spine or stomach, his lack of testicles.

But now Boehner has some partners in the new Senate majority with whom to share the incoming outrage. This DHS business? Oh please, this is the easiest John Boehner's life has been in years. This is nothing compared to the other crap he's been through, and in a way, he might even enjoy it. Now that there's a Republican Senate majority, he, too, gets to play the game of calling other Republicans squishes.

Indeed, it must have been thrilling for him in his press conference yesterday to lay blame for the House-passed DHS bill's failure on the lack of courage! and strength! among the same Senate Republicans who've been castigating him all these years:

After a closed House Republican meeting, Boehner (R-Ohio) said his chamber has “won this fight,” but he added that the “fight must be won in the United States Senate.”

“It’s time for Sen. Cruz and Sen. Sessions and Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats to stand with the American people and to block the president’s actions,” Boehner said.

Cruz later said he hadn’t seen Boehner’s remarks and wouldn’t comment on them.

Ted Cruz is the sort of legislator who respects a fine trolling; in his head, he surely registered a polite round of applause for Big Orange.

But Cruz has his own trolling effort to tend to now -- directed towards that "genius parliamentarian master" Mitch McConnell who, now that he has actual responsibilities, is just another schmo with no idea how to fund the government.

Cruz is reiterating his case that McConnell should block the White House's attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch, from a vote on the Senate floor until President Obama undoes his own executive actions. McConnell probably doesn't have the stomach -- or the spine! testicles! -- to hold up confirmation of one of the government's key officials over the latest outrage. It's not a standoff he'd win in the court of public opinion. But there's Cruz, anyway, covering his own ass, as he always does:

“For several months now, I have called on the Senate majority leader to halt confirmations of every nominee executive and judicial, other than vital national security positions, unless or until the president rescinds his unconstitutional amnesty,” Cruz told POLITICO in the Capitol. “We have an opportunity in front of us right now with Loretta Lynch – a nominee for attorney general — who has fully embraced and flat-out promised to implement the unconstitutional amnesty.”

Denying her confirmation, the conservative firebrand said, is “a concrete and definitive step we can take right now, using the tools that the Constitution gives Congress to rein in the president’s lawlessness.”

The key to Boehner and McConnell's conundrum could reside in one of Cruz's adjectives: "unconstitutional." Everyone, from left to right, tends to make fun of Boehner and Republican leaders when they resort to threatening lawsuits against the executive branch of the government. But hey, if Republicans think something's "unconstitutional," you know what the best response to that is? To file suit against it on constitutional grounds, and let the courts determine its adherence to the Founders' vision. Boehner and McConnell could say, we think it's unconstitutional, too, so we're bringing it to court. Now: let's fund the government!

That may be the best they've got to work with, but it's not perfect. Conservatives want these programs folded overnight and legal action would take for-ev-er. (Also: it probably wouldn't succeed because the actions are not unconstitutional. But, you know, overtly hackish Supreme Court, etc.)

One thing that Boehner and McConnell could consider doing in the future is not promising conservatives that they'll get everything they want overnight. Then -- get this -- they wouldn't have to manage the disappointment later on! What a thought. Never gonna happen.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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Congress Dhs Editor's Picks Executive Actions House Immigration John Boehner Mitch Mcconnell Senate Ted Cruz