department of homeland security

Congress has no plan to prevent a Homeland Security shutdown this week

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • The Department of Homeland Security will shut down Friday if nothing is done
  • Republicans are split and would likely get more of the blame
  • Where do each of the most vulnerable 2016 Senate Republicans stand?
  • Scott Walker’s bad couple of weeks continue

Shutdown showdown week: As some of us have been predicting, funding for the Department of Homeland Security has come down to the final week. Just five days from DHS running out of funding and shutting down, there is STILL no clear off ramp. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson made the rounds on the Sunday shows and called the funding fight “bizarre and absurd” on Meet the Press. Democrats have shown — with three filibusters and a fourth expected today — that they are not going to accept anything that limits President Obama’s ability to implement his immigration executive action legislatively, like in the last three pages of the 107-page Republican DHS funding bill. President Obama has said he would veto any kind of bill that includes those kind of restrictions. Republicans have not backed off and decided for at least a short-term funding measure while the immigration executive action makes its way through the courts. And it has split the GOP with high-profile Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mark Kirk of Illinois — one of the most vulnerable senators in 2016 — Rob Portman of Ohio, Marco Rubio of Florida and a handful of House members seeming to indicate that, at this point, they would prefer a clean bill.

Republicans split and pointing fingers: But Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has so far declined to go that route and has instead pointed to the House. “We’re stuck,” he said. “[T]he next move obviously is up to the House.” House Speaker John Boehner blamed Senate Democrats (with some salty language): “The House has done its job,” Boehner said after meeting with his conference. “Why don’t you go ask the Senate Democrats when they’re going to get off their ass and do something other than to vote ‘no’?” A House leadership aide confirmed that Boehner is not planning any action on DHS funding this week. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a likely presidential candidate, posited that Democrats would be blamed if DHS shuts down, but also warned Republicans last fall of going ahead with this strategy. “I told them [leadership] this was not a winning strategy, and they went down this road anyway.”

And they’d get the blame: Graham said on ABC’s This Week, “Our best bet is to challenge this in court, that if we don’t fund the Department of Homeland Security, we’ll get blamed as a party.” And he has good reason to feel that way — 55 percent of Americans in a CNN/ORC poll said a DHS shutdown of even a few days would be a “major problem” or “crisis,” and 53 percent would blame Republicans while 30 percent would blame President Obama. That’s even higher than when the federal government temporarily shutdown in 2013, when 46 percent in the poll said they would blame Republicans, and 36 percent said they would blame the president.

Where do the most vulnerable 2016 Republicans stand?

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is siding with Democrats: “I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding.” That is a change in tune, by the way. It came a day after Kirk said that if DHS shuts down, “We should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans.’”

Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.): “It really is Democrats that are blocking even bringing a bill on the floor to begin that discussion or debate.”

Pat Toomey (R-Pa.): “We’ve got a bill that fully funds the Department of Homeland Security. In fact, it’s an increase over last year’s funding. It funds every portion of it. I think the American people are going to demand that the Democrats actually take up the bill.”

Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.): Supports the Republican version of the bill. “It’s unfortunate that Senate Democrats voted against even allowing debate on this bill,” she said in a statement. “Republicans and Democrats must work together to find a path forward that ensures continued funding for the Department of Homeland Security and addresses the president’s executive actions on immigration.”

Richard Burr (R-N.C.): In favor of end-year funding bill that held up DHS funding. “This gives us the ability to enter the 114th Congress with a new majority and a greater ability to address the serious concerns Republicans have with the President’s recent executive amnesty. When the Senate returns next year, we will have more Republican votes to end or severely limit what was clearly an overreach by the President. … I want to be clear that I would not support any legislation that I believe would approve or facilitate Obama’s extra-legal actions.”

Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): He’s also considering a run for president, has voted with the GOP on the DHS funding bill, but he will miss today’s procedural vote on funding, because he will be in New Hampshire testing the waters for 2016. That comes after Rubio irritated some hard-line conservatives when he said in Nevada, “We have to fund Homeland Security. We can’t let Homeland Security shut down.”

**Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “I don’t think we should shut the place down. We’ve got to continue to do our work and not get distracted.”

Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska): She’s voted for the GOP DHS funding bill, but has not been outspoken about strategy.

Scott Walker’s problems continue: First, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wouldn’t talk about foreign policy (while in a foreign country) or whether he believed in evolution. Then he wouldn’t say if he thought President Obama loved America, and over the weekend, when asked by the Washington Post if he believed the president was Christian, Walker gave this confounding answer: “I don’t know. I’ve actually never talked about it or I haven’t read about that. I’ve never asked him that. You’ve asked me to make statements about people that I haven’t had a conversation with about that. How [could] I say if I know either of you are a Christian? … To me, this is a classic example of why people hate Washington and, increasingly, they dislike the press. The things they care about don’t even remotely come close to what you’re asking about.”

Walker’s blowing layups: That was about as bad an answer as a candidate could give. It’s easy to blame the press, and dismiss these as “gotcha” questions as a Walker press aide did in a follow up to the Post. (The aide also said that “of course” Gov. Walker thinks the president is Christian.) The answers he has given to these softballs, intended as litmus tests for rationality, have not shown the depth of a presidential candidate ready for the national spotlight. We’re a week away from March and the Madness that will ensue, so excuse the forthcoming extended basketball metaphor. Walker might try and dismiss this latest dustup as a media creation, but (1) these are layups he’s blowing, and (2) the bigger issue is that conservatives are sizing up who will be best to take on Jeb Bush, or whoever emerges from the “establishment” bracket, in a protracted primary fight. That was looking more and more like Walker, but these kinds of mistakes are going to make some pragmatic conservatives think twice about whether Walker is truly a prime-time player.

Conservatives, not the media, will be the problem for Walker: To that point, here’s conservative writer Matt Lewis: “[T]here is a sense [Walker] could be the guy to bridge the gap between the Republican establishment and the grassroots conservative base. But campaigns are crucibles, and if the last couple of days are a harbinger of things to come, he’s in trouble. Could it be that the governor who fought so courageously against Wisconsin unions might not be ready for prime time on the national stage?” Here’s a tip for Walker’s team, when a reporter asks the “gotcha” question next of whether President Obama was born in Hawaii, the correct answer for a politician who wants to win, is a version of: “These kinds of questions are why people don’t like the press. You focus on small things. But absolutely, the president was born in Hawaii. He’s a Christian who loves America, and a great family man. I just think his policies are completely wrong for this country. Now, can we move on to more important things, like my plan to get people back to work?”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln arrived secretly in Washington to assume the office of president after an assassination attempt in Baltimore. How many times did assassins try to kill Lincoln before John Wilkes Booth’s successful attempt? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to David Schooler ‏(@GandTMan) for guessing Thursday’s trivia: What event prompted the creation of these internment camps? The answer: the attack on Pearl Harbor.


  • Marco Rubio is headed to New Hampshire this week, where he’ll be promoting his book.

  • Walker is hardening his position on social issues after winning reelection against a female Democrat last fall.

  • The anti-union law that made Walker famous has hit Wisconsin’s union enrollment hard and could hurt Democrats’ ground operations in the state in 2016.

  • Are you ready for campaign ads? Well the conservative Super PAC American Crossroads has already put together a new ad attacking the Clinton Global Initiative for accepting foreign donations, and it features audio of none other than Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

  • Jeb Bush’s wife, Columba Bush, may not enjoy the spotlight, especially after she was detained in 1999 for lying to customs about how much she’d spent on a Paris shopping-spree, but she gave her blessing for her husband to run for president last Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, scrutiny of her lavish spending continues with the Washington Post reporting today that she regularly took out loans to purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.

  • Vice President Joe Biden’s recent official visits to Iowa and South Carolina and his upcoming trip to New Hampshire on Wednesday have fueled some speculation about a presidential run.

  • Mike Huckabee is leading one of his 10-day trips to Israel for Americans.

  • National Journal rounded up each of the potential 2016 Republican candidates’ stances on immigration.



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