Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mitch McConnell Punts It Back To The House

I'll say this for Mitch McConnell: He may be a hypocritical hack with the spine of a worm, but he can count. He knew he didn't have the votes to get the House's ridiculous DHS funding bill through the Senate. Democrats successfully stopped him four times; they were prepared to stop him forty times if need be. With the deadline for passing a funding bill rapidly approaching and a shutdown of the department imminent, he needed a way out of the jam his counterpart John Boehner put him in.

So he did what any politician would do: he punted the ball back to the House. As we speak, the Senate has just voted 98 - 2 to allow a clean funding bill to be brought to the floor. As soon as that bill is passed, the Senate will then vote up and down on President Obama's executive action on immigration. Democrats get what they want: a clean funding bill and Republicans get what they want: a chance to alienate yet more Hispanics.

Assuming both make it through both chambers, Obama will sign the former and veto the latter. I say assuming because the real hurdle is going to be the House or, more to the point, reluctant leader John Boehner, whose speakership may be hanging on how he proceeds. There is little doubt that if the Senate bill were given a straight up and down vote vote it would pass. Virtually every Democrat would vote for it and there are still enough sane Republicans left to push it across the finish line. It's the other unhinged Republicans that Boehner is worried about. They have made it abundantly clear that no funding bill can pass that doesn't strip Darth Vader (er, Obama) of his "unlawful actions." If Boehner were to acquiesce to common sense - unheard of in GOP land - he would be finished as Speaker in all likelihood.

Yet that is the fate that apparently awaits him. For the last few days Boehner has been insisting that the ball is now in the Senate's court. "It's time for them to do their job," he has been quoted as saying. Well, guess what? The new majority leader finally heard him. There is no way McConnell is going to tolerate a repeat of the 2013 shutdown fiasco, not with an election less than two years away and 24 members of his caucus up for reelection. Unlike House Republicans, who hold a commanding majority that isn't likely to be seriously challenged for several election cycles at the very least, Senate Republicans know their majority is precarious. If Democrats net four seats and hold the White House in 2016, McConnell will once again be at the back of the bus with Harry Reid at the wheel. You can bet the ranch he's going to do everything humanly possible not to let that happen, even if it means pissing off his base.

We'll soon know how all this plays out. Will Boehner have the stomach to stand up to the Tea Party loonies in his conference or will we once more be forced to go through this silly dance. This much is certain: in the White House, they are enjoying the sight of a divided Republican leadership going at it. This wasn't the way it was supposed to be. The GOP was supposed to be unified and running the show and Democrats were supposed to be in disarray and in retreat.

So much for that plan.

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