A federal judge’s decision to block the implementation of President Obama’s recent executive amnesty orders has changed the political calculus in Congress in the final days before the Department of Homeland Security funding lapses, but it’s not clear how.
“I think everyone’s wondering whether the president is really willing to shut down DHS for an executive order he can’t even execute because the Texas judge stopped it,” one Senate Republican aide tells National Review Online. “The case for the Democrats to claim that we must fully fund whatever the president is doing when he can’t even do it is hilarious.”
The judge’s order could cut the opposite direction, though, with some Republicans inclined to argue that they should not risk getting blamed for a potential shut down of DHS over a program that can’t be implemented anyway.
“Our goal has been to block the president’s executive action,” a senior GOP aide tells NRO. ”Since the courts have already done that, we’ve won that fight for the time being. As we learned in 2013, not only will [Republicans] be blamed, but we’re likely to have less leverage – not more – if the Department shuts down.”
Multiple GOP aides suggested Congress might pass a short-term continuing resolution to fund DHS, but there’s uncertainty as to whether that would end with the GOP passing a clean DHS bill, as the Senate Democrats — who are filibustering a House-passed funding bill because it includes blocks implementation of the 2014 executive orders and the 2012 deferred action program — demand.
“The question is, can Mitch McConnell find 14 Republicans to vote for a clean bill?” says one aide, referring to the number of Republicans Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) would need to join Democrats in voting for a clean DHS funding bill if he decides to go that route.
The judicial intervention is temporary, pending resolution of a lawsuit filed against the 2014 orders by 26 states. Obama’s attorneys are appealing the decision and requesting that the judge issue a stay that would allow the programs to be implemented while the legal battle plays out.
“Lourdes Martinez, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco said the 5th Circuit is known to be fairly conservative, and is likely to also deny the request for a stay,” Fox News notes.
One Senate aide said that GOP leadership is keeping their cards close to the vest, even within the Republican conference, in order to avoid leaks to the press.
“I assume somebody somewhere has an idea of where this is going to go,” the aide says. The picture should become a little clearer as lawmakers return to D.C. this evening, when the Senate is also scheduled to vote again on a motion to proceed to the House-passed DHS funding bill. Senate Democrats are expected to persist in blocking debate on the bill.