USA TODAY, Editorial Board
Obama’s executive order was an overreach, but not funding DHS would hurt Republican cause.
When President Obama signed an executive order last November to shield millions of undocumented workers from deportation, Republicans were rightly dismayed. Obama’s order was a glaring example of presidential overreach.
But the Republican response has been no better. The party is hurtling toward the governance-by-temper-tantrum approach that has failed it in the past and is likely to hurt the GOP in next year’s election.
House Republicans have passed a measure to undo Obama’s order as part of a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. If Senate Democrats don’t agree to the bill (which they won’t) and if Obama doesn’t sign it (which he won’t), the Republicans say they will simply let funding for the department lapse two weeks from Friday.
At least that’s their position as of now. Sooner or later, we hope they remember that playing budgetary blackmail backfired on them during the disastrous 2013 government shutdown and previous political fights dating to the mid-1990s.
These past episodes should make it clear that little will be gained now by another fiscal fit, even one in which the underlying complaint has merit.
A shutdown would further alienate Republicans from immigrant voters by showing the lengths to which they would go in the cause of deporting people, including so-called DREAMers who were brought illegally to the United States when they were children. A shutdown would also hamper a department charged with missions ranging from thwarting cyberterrorists to keeping air travel safe.
The ideal response would be to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul that tightens enforcement, streamlines legal immigration and provides a pathway to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S.
If Republicans can’t bring themselves to do that, they should at least find more appropriate ways to fight Obama. They could pass stand-alone legislation to overturn his order and let voters referee the dispute. Or they could sue the administration, as they’ve done on an Obamacare change. What they should not do is shut down a department that Americans rely on for personal safety. (Essential DHS employees would presumably stay on the job without pay until the dispute is resolved.)
At this point the GOP is divided, with some sensible voices, mostly from the Senate, urging caution, while the true believers in the House are plunging into an unwinnable confrontation without a fall-back plan.
With no obvious way out, House Speaker John Boehner is urging Senate Democrats to “get off their ass” and allow passage of a bill to roll back the executive order. If he actually thinks that will happen, he should consider a career change.
Obama’s executive action was unfortunate. It addressed a complex and controversial area of domestic policy that should have been handled through the normal legislative process. But an ill-considered response, such as the one contemplated by the GOP, will do more to undermine its cause than to advance it.