A bill funding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security through September 30 is headed to the White House, stripped of language intended to undermine President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration. Details on the voting and procedural maneuvers are after the jump, along with reaction from some of the Iowans in Congress.
Representative Steve King (IA-04) has repeatedly posted this image of a fish trap to convey his view that House Republicans played into a scheme to legalize what he calls Obama's "amnesty." In his press release, he asserted that "The White House is having a fish fry."
Yesterday Senate Democrats defeated a motion that would have led to the creation of a conference committee to reconcile differences between Homeland Security funding bills passed by the House and Senate. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid argued that a conference committee would merely prolong the impasse, ensuring a shutdown of the department. Iowa Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were both among the 47 Republicans who tried unsuccessfully to pass that procedural motion.
Shortly afterward, the Senate passed by 58 votes to 31 a motion to send the "clean" Homeland Security funding bill back to the House. Just like last Friday, Ernst and Grassley were among the Republicans who opposed the funding bill stripped of the immigration language.
Pete Kasperowicz explained here why those votes "could signal the end of GOP efforts to use that bill to defund President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration."
With the Senate's rejection of a negotiation, the two chambers are officially in disagreement with each other. According to the House rulebook, that state will allow House Democrats to request that the House hold a vote on the Senate bill, the one that funds Obama's immigration plan.
Those rules say that request is "privileged," and that it would have to come up for a vote. If just 30 or so Republicans favor passage of the "clean" DHS bill, it would pass the House and be sent to the White House for Obama's signature into law.
On Monday morning, King offered a a resolution seeking to change House rules to prevent that outcome. He warned,
"House Democrats voted last week for the one-week DHS funding bill because they knew they would have the power to call up the DHS amnesty funding bill for a vote this week," said King. "They are poised to take control of the floor and fund executive amnesty. A House Resolution can stop it, if we amend Rule XXII.
Clause 4 of Rule XXII of the House Rules provides privilege to a motion to dispose of any amendments 'when the stage of disagreement has been reached on a bill or resolution' as soon as the Senate formally disagrees. The DHS appropriations bill reached the stage of disagreement in the House last Friday. The Senate is poised to act tonight. From that moment, Nancy Pelosi or any Member of the majority or the minority can make a privileged motion to fund executive amnesty through September 2015. Under the Constitution, both chambers of Congress make their own rules. The House can change its rules by simple majority and has a duty to do so to protect the Constitution. It is our urgent obligation to immediately amend or suspend Clause 4 of Rule XXII.
The precedent for this is still fresh. Rules preemption was exactly the tactic used by our Leadership to prevent a similar privileged motion on the first day, in the first hour (1:00am) of the shutdown, Oct 1, 2013. If Republicans are serious about defending the Constitution and defunding the President's amnesty, a similar resolution must be passed this week before Democrats can act. Republicans were elected on a promise to stop Obama's unconstitutional amnesty. A single clause in a rule we have the power to change is not an excuse to fund lawlessness. This is only a trap if we fail to act. Leadership's back is not against the wall unless they choose it to be.
This is why I have drafted a resolution that will amend the Rule so that only the Majority Leader or his designee can offer the privileged resolution on the DHS bill. I urge my colleagues to join me in this fight for upholding and restoring the Constitution. The time to fight is now."
As it turned out, Democrats didn't need to take advantage of the rule, because a Republican ally of House Speaker John Boehner did the job for them today. Scott Wong, Rebecca Shabad, and Cristina Marcos reported for The Hill,
The Speaker spelled out his plans - and the political reality - in a GOP caucus meeting at the Capitol Hill Club on Tuesday. He told rank-and-file members the House had voted to fund the DHS and stop Obama's executive actions but that Senate Democrats repeatedly had blocked the bill from moving forward, according to a source in the room.
It's unlikely another short-term measure could have passed Congress, Boehner said. And shutting down the nation's top agency charged with fighting domestic terror was out of the question. [...]
"I am as outraged and frustrated as you at the lawless and unconstitutional actions of this president," Boehner said. "I believe this decision - considering where we are - is the right one for this team, and the right one for this country.
"The good news is that the president's executive action has been stopped, for now. This matter will continue to be litigated in the courts, where we have our best chance of winning this fight."
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a close ally of Boehner's, made the motion Tuesday to use an obscure House rule to bring the Senate-passed funding bill to a House vote. [...]
Simpson blasted the conservatives' strategy as a path destined to fail. He pointed out the DHS funding bill doesn't contain money for processing the executive actions in the first place, because those are funded by fees.
"What it will lead to is a closedown of the Department of Homeland Security. And that is not a victory. That is dangerous," he said.
The clean funding bill passed by 257 votes to 167 (roll call). Every Democrat present, including Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02), supported the bill, joined by 75 Republicans. All of the no votes came from Republicans, including King and his Iowa colleagues Rod Blum (IA-01) and David Young (IA-03).
In a sense, it's surprising Blum and Young voted no today, because both voted for short-term Homeland Security funding bills last Friday, which King opposed. Then again, Young said at that time that his "guiding principles" included keeping the department fully open without allowing "the president's unconstitutional executive actions to move forward."
Blum's votes are less ideologically consistent, since he argued last Friday that the short-term Homeland Security funding bill would not pay for "President Obama's unconstitutional executive amnesty," because "those actions have been halted for now by the recent court ruling in Texas." His official statement after today's vote put himself squarely in the Steve King camp:
Today I voted against funding the President's illegal and unconstitutional executive actions on immigration. I had no choice but to do so: I took an oath to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States. In past weeks I voted three times to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security while withholding funds for the President's illegal actions, only to see that legislation blocked by Senate Democrats who would rather blindly follow their party than uphold their oath. It's disingenuous to fault those of us who are simply asking the President to follow the law. In the real world the blame falls on the people who break the rules, not the people who are trying to enforce the rules.
King's outrage over this week's turn of events is palpable. Before Boehner laid out the capitulation strategy at caucus today, King linked approvingly to this essay by Phyllis Schlafly titled, "Democrats Plan To Win Elections With Illegal Alien Votes."
After the vote, his press release combined tragic and comedic tones:
King: Constitution Was Eviscerated Today
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Steve King released the following statement after voting against a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security for Fiscal Year 2015 and Obama's illegal, unconstitutional actions on immigration. The bill, H.R. 240, passed by a vote of 257 to 167.
"Today the will of the American people was ignored," said King. "And Republicans in the House overwhelmingly rejected this legislation 2:1. Further our Constitution, that we all took an oath to support and defend, was eviscerated. The fish trap that Republicans have been swimming further and further into finally trapped them today. The White House is having a fish fry."
To bring that point to a wider audience, King tweeted,
For the millenials in the Bleeding Heartland community, the "Hastert rule" refers to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who refused to bring bills up for a vote unless a majority within the GOP caucus supported them. He would not have allowed a bill like the Homeland Security appropriation to pass largely due to Democratic votes.
Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread. Bonus points if you can explain why anyone listens to Phyllis Schlafly anymore.