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Achilles’ Hill: GOP Takes Hit on Amnesty

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By Tony Perkins

They may be in the same party, but Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) are on different pages when it comes to immigration strategy. The plan had been to use Homeland Security’s funding — which runs out in two days — to back the White House into a corner on its decision to ignore the law and wave five million illegal immigrants into the country.

Neither party really wants to deal with the optics of DHS shutting down, but they also know that (apart from the media’s narrative), it would really have no meaningful effect on American security — not when 85% of the Department’s employees would still be working as “essential” personnel. But unlike his House counterpart, Sen. McConnell is apparently too antsy about the public’s perception of a DHS slowdown to hold his ground.

In a surprise move, he’s decided to strike out on his own and split the House bill in two: with one proposal that would fund Homeland Security through September and another that would block the President’s amnesty plan. The idea brought groans to House conservatives, who view it as surrender. Without the leverage of the DHS bill, there’s very little hope the Left will reconsider.

And even if McConnell does manage to snag some Democrats in a vote on the illegal immigration bill, it won’t be enough to override a presidential veto. Boehner, on the other hand, hasn’t given an inch. In the pressure cooker of the House, where conservatives and moderates tug on both sides of the Speaker, the Ohio leader knows that if he gives in to McConnell’s plan, he’ll be right back where he started: in a weakened position with his own members. With the courts already on his side, the Speaker shows no signs of buckling — sending yet another signal that he heard the message voters sent in November.

Although the results aren’t (and can’t be) immediate, this new House is already distinguishing itself from the last Congress, where leaders weren’t nearly this emboldened on America’s priorities. Problems that members might have been tempted to let slide last year are being tackled head-on. Take D.C. marijuana, for example. Congress has always had legislative oversight in the District (much to the city’s displeasure), but it takes a lot of prodding to get members to exercise it.

That hasn’t been a problem lately — with two GOP members jumping into the District pot debate. In a strongly worded letter to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (Utah) and Mark Meadows (N.C.), said there would be a price to pay if the city moved forward with its plan to legalize marijuana. If D.C. officials are “under any illusion that this would be legal,” Chaffetz warned, “they’re wrong. And there are very severe consequences for violating this provision. You can go to prison for this. We’re not playing a little game here.”

Despite the fact that Congress blocked the measure in its December spending bill — and despite the fact that the law has to pass a 30-day congressional review — the Mayor insists the law will take effect Thursday. Not if this pair has anything to do with it! “If you decide to move forward tomorrow with the legalization of marijuana in the District, you will be doing so in knowing and willful violation of the law,” they cautioned.

And drugs aren’t the only area conservatives are drawing the line. In the back and forth over the No Child Left Behind reauthorization, the GOP has another goal: leaving Common Core behind. As part of the mixed bag known as the Student Success Act (an update of the signature George W. Bush law), conservatives are including a few key provisions — one of which would stop the Secretary of Education from using No Child Left Behind as a bargaining chip to get states to adopt Common Core. Right now, the Obama administration has coerced states to accept Common Core by granting them waivers from the stringent NCLB requirements.

It probably sounds strange that states would trade standards for standards, but that’s how unpopular portions of the Bush law have been. H.R. 5 would bar the DOE from greasing the wheels for more Common Core by making those exemptions illegal. Although the bill is far from perfect, members are working to include a few amendments that would threaten a school’s funding if it distributes “emergency contraception” pills like Plan B to students or refers them for abortions. As part of the base bill, members also made sure to put in a plug for abstinence education. Under the House’s language, federal funds can’t be used for school sex-ed that promotes contraception — without also talking about the benefits of abstinence. All of this and more will be considered this week in committee meetings. If you want to weigh in on DHS, D.C. pot, or education, contact your senators and congressman!

Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.

(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)

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