Conservatives not sweating DHS shutdown

Hard-line House GOP conservatives aren’t worried about a looming Department of Homeland Security shutdown as the deadline for congressional action draws near.

Many of the conservative lawmakers who most want to aggressively challenge President Obama's executive actions on immigration think that if push comes to shove, a shutdown will be worth the fight.

And at this point, they don't think there will be any electoral consequences if there is a shutdown.

"I'm just not that scared of sticking to principles and filling campaign promises that we made back home, irrespective of what leadership tells us to do here," said Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.).

"It's worth having this fight," said Rep. Paul GosarPaul GosarOvernight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns House panel approves Puerto Rico debt relief Overnight Defense: Dem opposition mounts to defense policy bill MORE (R-Ariz.).

Gone are assurances from Republican lawmakers that there won't be a shutdown later this month.

Most DHS employees are considered "essential," meaning that workers like border patrol agents and Transportation Security Administration employees would remain on the job, albeit without pay. So in the eyes of some lawmakers, a DHS shutdown wouldn't have as much impact as the government-wide shutdown in 2013.

"The shutdown would be extremely limited. It would be only in one department, with only a small percentage of people in that one department. But again, nobody has a goal here of shutting anything down. The goal here is to get the president to get right with the Constitution that he swore an oath to uphold," said Rep. John FlemingJohn FlemingIn House GOP, Ryan endorsement of Trump seen as inevitable Overnight Finance: Puerto Rico bill clears panel | IRS chief vows to finish term | Bill would require nominees to release tax returns House panel approves Puerto Rico debt relief MORE (R-La.).

Of course, many Republicans in the House and Senate think allowing DHS to shut down would be a bad idea.

"I think a shutdown would be a huge mistake for a whole host of reasons, especially given the fact we have ISIS on the march and terrorism again in Europe," said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who voted against language last month to freeze a program allowing illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits.

"This strategy was never designed to succeed. Everybody knows that. So now we have to face the reality and do what the American public sent us here to do, which is to govern and fund the Homeland Security department," Dent told The Hill.

Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkMcConnell: ‘Ticket-splitting’ will preserve GOP Senate majority Moulitsas: GOP, this is real life Kaine, Murphy push extension of Iran sanctions MORE (R-Ill.), who is up for reelection in 2016, also thinks a shutdown would undercut Republicans pledges to govern Washington more efficiently.

"It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable," Kirk said of a potential shutdown. "When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible."

The complacency extends to the coming week's congressional recess. Lawmakers of all political stripes said they weren't worried about spending all of next week in their districts for the Presidents' Day holiday.

Congress will have just four days to find a solution before funding for DHS would lapse after Feb. 27.

Even Dent didn't think it was necessary to cancel next week's recess, noting that Congress can move quickly when it wants to.

"We have time to do it," Dent said of the DHS funding. "Leadership on both sides needs to make a decision about what the path forward is. Once they determine that path forward, it shouldn't take long to enact the legislation."

By contrast, both chambers of Congress canceled a recess in September 2013 similarly close to the deadline that ultimately resulted in the first government shutdown in 17 years.

And yet only one lawmaker suggested that Congress should stay in Washington and keep working to solve the impasse.

"Forget about recess," Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said at an event held with the Heritage Foundation this week. "Imagine what the American people will think about our party, the Republican Party, if we stay here for a week, we decide not to go on recess, and we actually fight for the principles that the American people sent us here to fight for."

When it returns, the Senate will vote for a fourth time to proceed to the House-passed DHS funding bill with language to revoke President Obama's immigration actions. It is expected to fall short of the necessary 60 votes, just like the other three votes.

But Fleming refused to acknowledge that the strategy won't take them any farther.

"I was elected to represent my district, not to predict the future," Fleming said when a reporter pointed out that the fourth vote would fail like the others.

Despite taking a lot of heat for the 2013 shutdown over ObamaCare, Republicans ultimately never paid the price at the ballot box in last year's elections. But Democrats like Rep. Luis GutierrezLuis GutierrezHispanic lawmakers face painful decision on Puerto Rico Frustration with White House builds in Hispanic caucus Puerto Rico debt relief faces serious challenges in Senate MORE (D-Ill.) think a shutdown of DHS would hurt the GOP in the long run.

"Don't think there's going to be another rollout of ObamaCare. They got lucky the last time they shut down the government. They were able to change the conversation to the incredibly, how would I say it, not too nicely rolled out ObamaCare. So they won't have that opportunity a second time," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez warned that shutting down DHS over a fight about immigration would haunt Republicans in the 2016 elections.

"It is clear to me that come the presidential election of 2016, this will be a cardinal issue in the debate," Gutierrez said.

Labrador maintained that aggressively challenging the president is good politics for Republicans, who just started the new Congress with a new Senate majority and the largest House majority since the early 20th century.

"It's pretty simple: When you fight for what you believe in, you win elections," Labrador said.

 

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