GOP’s immigration Plan B: Fight over the Senate’s magical legislative powers

House GOP demands Senate Republicans use some form legislative sorcery to pass their unpassable DHS funding bill

By Simon Maloy

Published February 5, 2015 6:56PM (EST)

Mitch McConnell, John Boehner                                                                             (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Mitch McConnell, John Boehner (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The doomed-to-fail Republican effort to use legislation funding the Department of Homeland as a tool to dismantle President Obama’s immigration orders has, of course, failed. But the politics of the thing require that Republicans in Congress make a show of defiance to the president before giving in and agreeing to fund the country’s national security bureaucracy without any strings. The bill will pass, they insist, because that’s what the American people want/why they were elected/what the rule of law demands/etc.

The insurmountable problem is that legislation passed by the House will not make it out of the Senate. The Democrats filibustered it on Tuesday, and filibustered it again yesterday, and filibustered it again today. Republicans in the Senate are nowhere near the 60 votes they need to invoke cloture, so the House bill is, for all practical purposes, dead.

Don’t tell that to the House GOP, though. They’re insisting that their counterparts in the Senate pass the legislation – apparently through some sort of filibuster-breaking magic that imparts the power of 60 votes to the 53-or-so Republicans who back the measure.

“People are counting on them to deliver,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) told Politico. “We sent them a bill, and they need to pass it. They need to pass our bill.” Rep. John Carter voiced a similar frustration, demanding that Mitch McConnell get it passed by “making a lot of noise”:

“This is very frustrating, because this is a good bill,” said Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who chairs the subcommittee that writes DHS’ budget. “It really does some things we really need.” He added: “Politically, [McConnell] needs to make a lot of noise. Because the constituency is very upset about” Obama’s changes to immigration policy.

Complaints like these were preceded by exhortations from Rep. Raul Labrador that Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee figure out a way to pass the bill using some unspecified procedural trick that obviates filibusters. No less a personage that John Boehner specifically called out Cruz and Sen. Jeff Sessions in demanding that the Senate GOP “stand together” with Democrats to shut down Obama’s immigration orders. How they were supposed to do that is anyone’s guess.

As you might expect, Republicans in the Senate are getting frustrated with their House colleagues’ deliberate refusal to recognize the procedural limitations they operate under with this piece of legislation. “It’s our view that the president acted in an unconstitutional fashion,” John McCain said after the second failed cloture vote, “and we understand what the House did, but we hope they understand our constraints as well.”

And that’s just it: of course Republicans in the House understand that their bill will never pass. Right now their primary concern is shifting blame for the bill’s failure onto someone else. “We did our jobs and stood up to the socialist dictator, now it’s time for Senate Republicans to do theirs.” The GOP came into full control of Congress with a promise to “show we can govern,” but this infighting over immigration, along with the many other failures that have provided the backdrop for their first few weeks in power, leads you to suspect that they don’t actually have a coherent strategy for how they intend to govern.

At the moment, the House and Senate leadership are nowhere close to being on the same page, to the point that when they’re not publicly squabbling over how to pass unpassable legislation, they’re wishing each other the best of luck in figuring out how to move forward.

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