By Tony Perkins
Yesterday’s House session felt like a tale of two Congresses. After one of the greatest foreign policy speeches in a generation, members got back to business. But the same defiance and resolve that filled the chamber just hours earlier seemed to exit the chamber when Benjamin Netanyahu did. Instead of building on that momentum, House leaders let it slip away in a familiar — but staggering — show of capitulation on an issue that could be the defining one in 2016.
After months of promises and saber rattling over the President’s illegal amnesty order, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) raised what is becoming his trademark white flag and gave President Obama the funds to continue running the Department of Homeland Security, illegal actions and all. Proving the Establishment is more focused on the media than their employers — voters — Boehner decided to throw away the political leverage he had in the illegal immigration debate and bring up a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill for a vote.
While the idea was originally Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.), the Speaker had talked tough for months that his chamber wouldn’t be bullied into funding the agency unless it addressed the White House’s amnesty order for as many as five million undocumented immigrants. Most conservatives wanted to draw a line on the President’s breech of authority in the last Congress, but Boehner refused — insisting that it would be the top priority of the new Congress. “I said we would fight tooth and nail when we had the majority,” he said back in January, “and I meant it… Members of Congress support funding the department, but we cannot continue to allow the President to go around the Congress, to go around the law and take unilateral action.”
On Tuesday, the Speaker’s actions suggested he didn’t really mean it — much to his party’s outrage. A whopping 167 Republicans, including several key committee chairmen, voted against leadership, casting every single “no” on the roll call. “There is no way on God’s green earth,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) told reporters that he would support a bill that didn’t combat the President’s actions. It was a strong sentiment that rippled right through the party. “I believe this is a sad day for America,” Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) lamented. “If we aren’t going to fight now, when are we going to fight?”
The same House Speaker that pointed out how unaffected Homeland Security would be by a funding delay (90% of employees would still be working), suddenly changed tunes. “With more active threats coming into the homeland,” he explained, “I don’t believe that’s an option. Imagine if, God forbid, another terrorist attack hits the United States.” What happened to the tough talk? Despite all the saber rattling, the American people are left with the same empty and frustrated feeling they had when the GOP was in the minority. Like us, many of them are probably wondering: why give control to Republicans if all they’re going to do is babysit the country’s demise? In the end, this is about a lot more than immigration. It’s about every issue (marriage, health care, abortion, national security, gun rights) where President Obama has substituted his personal agenda for the rule of law.
Speaker Boehner insists the courts can handle the amnesty issue. But considering the courts’ recent track record, who in their right minds would trust them to? The founders designed Congress to be an executive branch check for a reason. And if Republicans can’t muster the courage to stand now, when will they?
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.)
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.