Earth to House GOP: Messing with DHS ain’t governing

The only solution that will demonstrate House Republican leaders are serious about governing is to put a fully-funded DHS bill on the floor right away, says In ...

I think I know what the House Republican leaders feel like. Or at least what they should feel like.

Francis Rose
When I was a sophomore in high school, I was chosen to be the sports editor of the school newspaper. It was a big deal. A few seniors on the staff were not happy, and predicted the end of the world as we know it. The first issue went fine; the second issue was late, because I didn’t execute well (strike one). Two others staffers had to complete the third issue, because I executed even worse (strike two). By the fourth issue, I was no longer sports editor (strike three). I liked being the sports editor. Doing the actual work was less fun. That’s where we appear to be in the House of Representatives, where the stakes are somewhat higher than a high school newspaper. The day after the November election, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader-to-be Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, boldly titled “Now We Can Get Congress Going.” The first opportunity to demonstrate they were serious was last December’s “cromnibus” that carved out funding for the Homeland Security Department from the rest of the government, which they fully funded. Their second opportunity was this week’s deadline to fund the Homeland Security Department for the rest of the fiscal year. They blew it, and wound up passing a one-week continuing resolution that puts the agency back in the same place this Friday that it was last Friday: hoping Congress will finally do something to stop the madness. Federal News Radio and other outlets have well documented the problems a DHS shutdown causes: 200,000 employees working without pay (or being disciplined for going AWOL), 30,000 other employees laid off, the nation’s cyber defenses down, the Coast Guard’s fleet crisis, and the list goes on. To me, the most striking words hammering the 50-some Republicans who seem intent on shutting down DHS to make a point about President Barack Obama’s immigration executive order came from former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. His stature as President George W. Bush’s Homeland Security adviser after 9/11, and as the first secretary of the new department, should be enough to demonstrate he’s no Obama administration mouthpiece. Indeed, he stated pretty clearly last week that while he opposed the provisions of the immigration executive order, he also opposed the House Republican rump group’s strategy to starve it. But Ridge holds two other credentials that I bet most observers didn’t think of when he chipped away at the credibility of the House rebels. One credential was as a former six-term congressman from Pennsylvania. So his advice to the House GOPers trying to hijack DHS funding came from someone who had walked in their shoes successfully enough to gain him the credibility to be elected governor of Pennsylvania. The second credential was as the first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran elected to Congress, who earned a Bronze Star in the process. That credential made these words even more powerful: “We would no more ask the men and women in harm’s way in Afghanistan, or the 3,000 boots on the ground combating ISIL, to go out to provide safety and security in the interest of national security without pay. … There are many people in many departments and organizations in this government that have the responsibility of our safety and our security. They wear … a different uniform, but the goal, the mission and the objective is the same: keep America as safe and secure as possible.” The second DHS secretary, Michael Chertoff, said at the same event as Ridge that “a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security is going to cause a lot of pain and a lot of difficulty for American citizens as well as for the hundreds of thousands of people who work for DHS.” When House Republicans have lost the first two DHS secretaries — both Republicans — they’ve really lost the battle. The only solution that will demonstrate House Republican leaders are serious about governing is to put the fully-funded DHS bill on the floor — right away — and get it to the Senate in plenty of time to pass by Wednesday or Thursday. That course of action is the only one that will give the American people confidence to consider keeping Republicans in charge of Congress. And why should voters choose a Republican president next year if they’ll get more of this? Strike one for the House Republican majority was not dealing with this in the lame duck session of the 113th Congress, right after the bold promise to “get Congress going.” Strike two was Friday’s fiasco to kick the DHS funding can down the road a week. Strike three could be this Friday, if the Homeland Security funding bill isn’t clean, and isn’t passed. And the entire Republican caucus — in both chambers — could find itself like one former high school sports editor a long time ago: on the outside, looking longingly in.

In Depth host Francis Rose interviews government executives and contractors about the latest news affecting the way federal employees do their jobs. In Depth airs Monday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. EST, on 1500AM in Washington, D.C. Listen live on or find archived episodes here.

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