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DHS funding: GOP doesn’t deserve the blame (but will probably get it)

Democrats aren't allowing a Senate debate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, but it's the Republicans who are likely to get blamed, if the result is a shutdown.

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    US Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas addresses a news conference on the funding of the Department of Homeland Security with fellow House and Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill in Washington on Feb. 12, 2015. Unless Congress votes out a bill, DHS funding for FY 2015 expires on Feb. 27.
    Gary Cameron/Reuters
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Republicans in Congress remind me of the kid who constantly gets in trouble at school. Even when it’s not his fault, he gets blamed.

House Speaker John Boehner said over the weekend that the House has done its job when it comes to funding the Department of Homeland Security. The funding for the cumbersome agency turns off in 10 days, and it doesn’t look like the Senate will act on the House bill anytime soon.

DHS has a couple hundred thousand workers, including the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, the Secret Service, FEMA and INS. Should this sliver of the government close down, most of those employees would be deemed essential, meaning they would have to go to work without getting paid.

I’m sure President Obama would like to see the Secret Service continue to get paid, for example.

About 30,000 employees in DHS are deemed nonessential, which makes me wonder why they are employed there in the first place. I guess the first goal of government reform should be that all employees paid for by the taxpayers are essential to the mission of governing.

It’s going to be awkward for members of Congress to get paid while the Border Patrol is not getting paid. I would hope that every press secretary of every Republican member of the House and Senate prepare themselves for that question: Are you going to continue to accept your paycheck while those poor suckers defending the country against migrant workers are not getting paid?

The House probably overreached when it came to passing their bill over to the Senate.  When I was working for the GOP leadership, our philosophy was to pass the most conservative bill out of the House and prepare ourselves for the inevitable watering down by the Senate.

The problem for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is the House bill was so toxic (and contained so many politically explosive provisions) that Senate Democrats are afraid to even take the bill up on the Senate floor.

They have successfully (so far) refused to even allow the House bill to even be considered on the Senate floor, which is pretty gutsy if you think about it.

This is a challenge to McConnell’s promise to allow free-flowing debate, to get the Senate working again, but it is completely consistent with Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid’s philosophy of refusing to allow the upper body to debate anything controversial.

Republicans have the upper hand logically, but not so rhetorically, mostly because of what happened with the government shutdown over Obamacare.

All Senate Republicans are asking for is a chance to debate the House bill, to allow the process to move forward, to have real votes on real amendments. Senate Democrats shouldn’t get away with their obstruction, but they probably will.

It’s not fair, but if the Department of Homeland Security does shut down, in all likelihood, it will be the Republicans that get the blame. The question is, will anybody – outside of the 200,000 DHS employees – really care that much?  After all, most of the essential work will continue to get done and most of those employees will get their back pay, eventually.

John Feehery publishes his Feehery Theory blog at http://www.thefeeherytheory.com/.

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