Unlike my friend Quin, I am not the slightest bit surprised that the GOP may use the Theater of Rescission to playact “opposition” to Obama’s executive amnesty for millions of illegal aliens. As Quin and Eliana report, that gambit has been floated by Representative Hal Rogers of Kentucky, the Republican establishment factotum who chairs the House appropriations committee. As I have been noting for years now, this is what Republicans do: They devise schemes that enable Obama’s ruinous policies but that can be masqueraded as opposition to those policies.
Usually it’s the cloture game. Even with a Senate minority, Republicans have often had enough votes to stop Obama initiatives from passing because of the 60-vote requirement for ending debate. But a few Republicans would peel off to give Democrats the 60 they need for cloture. Republicans tell you they’ve done this is so they can get to a vote on the merits and register their opposition. But as they know, once debate is closed, passage is assured because the measure only needs 51 yea votes at that final stage. At that stage, Republicans cynically vote nay. In effect, they make sure both that the bill passes and that they can tell the folks back home they voted against it.
And then there was the debt-ceiling chicanery. This was an unconstitutional scheme devised by Republican leaders who knew the GOP’s conservative base was demanding that they use the power of the purse to rein in Obama’s runaway deficit spending; the leaders were nevertheless determined to authorize additional trillions of debt (having run up trillions of debt themselves when they were in charge during the Bush years). Naturally, they wanted to be seen as opposing what they were actually enabling.
So they devised a cockamamie process in which Obama was invited to “propose” debt increases that Congress could purportedly only object to by a “disapproval” resolution. Obama could then veto that resolution – a veto that could be overridden only by an impossible two-thirds supermajority Republicans knew could never be mustered. This camouflaged the fact that not a dime in debt spending authority can happen in our system without congressional approval. In effect, Republicans ceded their constitutional authority over debt spending to the executive, assured that trillions of dollars in additional debt would be imposed on future generations of Americans, but made sure they’d be able to vote against what they were approving not once but twice (in the disapproval resolution and the futile veto override). They’d then wave those nay votes at their constituents as proof of their bitter opposition to Washington’s astronomical debt.
The Rogers rescission artifice would fit this pattern to a tee. As I’ve detailed before, Obama has absolute power to grant amnesty (by pardon) and to refrain from enforcing the immigration laws against illegal aliens, but he has no power to confer positive legal benefits on them – e.g., lawful status, certificates of relief from deportation, and work permits. For the latter he needs funding from Congress. Republicans can thus stop this most lawless component of Obama’s plan by denying funding for it in the continuing resolution (CR) that the lame-duck Congress is now cobbling together (since the government runs out of money in about three weeks).
Of course, if Republicans deny funding, Obama may not sign the CR, which would partially shut down the government. Republican leaders thus do not want a funding fight – many of them support Obama’s amnesty goal (if not his method of achieving it), and more of them are spooked over the prospect of being blamed by the Democrat-media alliance for a partial shutdown (even though it would be Obama who was actually shutting things down by refusing to sign a CR that would fund just about everything except his unpopular amnesty). But once again, Republicans are in a bind between their preemptive surrender proclivities and their agitated base.
Rescission is the signature GOP solution. It would enable Obama’s amnesty; yet, once Obama begins to implement the amnesty, it would provide for futile GOP rescission votes to slash already approved spending on benefits for the amnestied illegal aliens. Even with a new GOP majority in both congressional chambers, Obama would promptly veto any rescission proposal, and Republicans would lack the two-thirds supermajority needed to override the veto.
Eliana’s sources and Quin are entirely correct: The suggestion that there is some legislative veto over spending – i.e., that Congress could rescind previously enacted spending by simple-majority votes in both chambers in the absence of a presidential signature – is fiction. It is inconceivable to me that Representative Rogers, the appropriations chairman, does not know this rudimentary fact. As Quin says, the rescission strategy would be a “deliberate deception.” Republican leaders would be making sure Obama got full funding for his amnesty, but that GOP members could later cast a futile vote to rescind – thereby masquerading as opponents of what could not have happened without their support. Perfect . . . and, past being prologue, perfectly predictable.