Speaker John Boehner’s plan to fund the government operations for a year, but excepting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from the bill is a great deal that conservatives should accept and celebrate. If Boehner can get the Democratic Senate — while it lasts — to agree to his proposed formula for avoiding a government shutdown, it will be a massive victory for Republicans and pose big problems ahead for President Obama.
Republicans have always sought to use government funding as a kind of surgical strike aimed at programs they dislike. In the October, 2013 government shutdown, conservatives wanted to fund the entire government except for those that were to implement ObamaCare. But Senate Democrats and the White House held the rest of the government hostage saying that the House Republicans had either to fund the entire government or shut it all down. Even Republican attempts to exempt military pay and Social Security processing were rejected or received with a jaundiced eye.
Now, however, Boehner is trying to set the stage for just such a surgical operation when the Republicans take over the Senate next year. By funding the entire government for a year but appropriating only a few months of money for the ICE, Boehner makes it possible for a fully Republican Congress to defund the ICE without closing down the entire government.
President Obama is relying on the finding of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) that much of the ICE processing is funded by administrative levies which are not dependent on government appropriations. But this is not the whole story. Much of ICE funding is, indeed, dependent on government appropriations and a creative conservative majority can use its power to craft a spending bill that would have real teeth.
But it needs a majority of the Senate. We don’t have one now and won’t until next year.
Conservatives should seize on a victory when Boehner hands it to them. Go along with keeping the government open but stop Obama’s ability to force a general shutdown next year if Republicans withhold ICE appropriations. It’s a very good deal.
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