The Corner

McCarthy and Scalise Might Buck Boehner Over Clean DHS Bill

Representative Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) wants the House to return the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill to the Senate with the bans on implementing President Obama’s executive orders on immigration — which the Senate is stripping out — restored to the bill.

“I hope we put back in the language that we had in the House bill and send it back to them,” Jordan, the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of about 30 conservative lawmakers, tells National Review.

The House passed a DHS funding bill that blocked the executive orders that Obama issued in November 2014, as well as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Obama created in 2012. Senate Democrats filibustered the bill repeatedly, while Senate Republicans seemed more interested in passing a DHS funding bill that blocked the 2014 orders only, and received a boost when a federal judge blocked implementation of the 2014 programs.

“I would be open to that, but the American people are for the House bill,” Jordan says.

Jordan’s position might complicate life for House speaker John Boehner. If Boehner puts a clean DHS funding bill on the floor — “the ‘clean’ version is our version, because our version is consistent with the judge’s ruling,” Jordan argue — the bill could probably pass with a minority of Republicans and likely-unanimous support from House Democrats.

That might leave expose Boehner to another challenge to his speakership, perhaps more effective than in previous fights. When the House Freedom Caucus formed after the last coup attempt in January, it created some infrastructure for a potential challenge to Boehner.

“Any leadership election is pretty much about organization and who has votes lined up or who can reach a lot of members quickly,” one member of the group tells NR. “That is going to be a factor in a contested leadership race.”

And House conservatives expect House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and House Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.) to resist voting on a clean bill as passed by the Senate, in the event that Boehner attempts to pass the bill. McCarthy sounded a more strident note than Boehner during the GOP conference meeting on Wednesday.

“McCarthy restated that ‘it will be a long two years’ if we start passing bills based on what senators told us to do,” a GOP lawmaker told NR after the meeting.

Scalise was regarded as a potential challenger to Boehner at the beginning of the Congress, before reports that he spoke to a white supremacist group temporarily hamstrung him. House conservatives generally trust Boehner more than McCarthy when it comes to immigration issues, and McCarthy was a key proponent of the cromnibus strategy that set up this current fight, but this week could give him an opportunity to gain respect among the backbenchers.

That argument has been made by prominent critics of Boehner, as well. “This is what sets up the next two years,” said Representative Tim Huelskamp (R., Kan.), who voted against Boehner continuing as speaker, according to Talking Points Memo. ”If we’re gonna let Harry Reid dictate what the House can pass and can do now, then for the next 22 months that’s what we’ll expect, which would be very disappointing for conservatives.”

Boehner, though, told the House GOP conference that they needed to “keep all options on the table,” according to a lawmaker at the meeting.

Depending on how this DHS fight plays out, House Republicans might come to regard McCarthy or Scalise as a preferable alternative to Boehner.

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