Muddled thinking on a 'clean bill'
© by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, March 5, 2015


Most issues, though sometimes controversial, are fairly simple, and this is true of the two I am forced to discuss in unfortunate combination, making them complicated.

It’s important for everyone to understand why Republicans are being attacked for having resisted the federal budget item that contains this combination:

Homeland Security. As titled, this issue isn’t controversial, except for the usual safe assumptions that waste and inefficiency can be found in any government agency. We all want our homeland to be secure.

It’s important to know that homeland security did not go unfunded, even as this week’s debate continued: The country uses prior levels of expenditure and money moved around in the operating budget to fund essential services. Regardless, it doesn’t need more of the second issue:

Illegal immigration. Much of the media insists on calling it merely “immigration,” though the issue is only illegal entry into the country. President Obama wants to shield millions of illegal immigrants from the threat of deportation. Very controversial, though I’m still asking the simple question: What part of illegal don’t you understand?

What possible sense does it make to combine these two issues in one budget item? It has always been understood that any country, to be secure, must have secure borders: therefore illegal immigration is a threat to homeland security.

So this week’s “big deal” political situation began when President Obama created what constitutionalists consider an illegal executive order to reward some illegal immigrants with permission to stay here and be given taxpayer-funded benefits, without a direct vote of Congress. Funding for his executive order resides in the Homeland Security section of his budget, a common political ploy to get something controversial by combining it with something that’s not.

Republicans, who now have a majority in both the House and the Senate, resisted funding this until the president removed the offending section. The president, Democrats and liberal media attacked, saying Republicans want to “shut down the government” again.

Many Republican leaders fear this accusation because of an October 2013 budget debate for which they were criticized. Tea party Republicans were keeping their campaign promise to defund ObamaCare before it could fully kick in, but because Republicans had a majority in only the House, they couldn’t get support from the Democrat-controlled Senate. During the debate, the government “shut down” (operated without a new budget), though most of us didn’t notice. Nevertheless, until the Democrats got their way, the Republicans were blamed for whatever went wrong in the universe.

As it turned out, this didn’t hurt them in the next election, when they attained a majority in the Senate, with 54 of the 100 members. Keep in mind, though, that a Senate majority isn’t the same as a House majority, because of the Senate rule that requires 60, not 51, votes for some procedures.

Also keep in mind that winning in 2014 was much easier for Republicans than winning will be in 2016, as presidential elections bring out more voters who aren’t paying close attention to issues and their unintended consequences.

So Republicans this week are divided into two camps: those terrified of being accused of “shutting down the government,” which polls show is an unpopular concept, and those who figure they’re going to be accused of this anytime they try to fix said government, so might as well do the right thing and hope for the best politically.

The latter group includes tea party members, who ran on fixing things; the 50 or so in the House make it hard for Speaker Boehner, who seems more concerned about the possibly bad electoral consequences of holding out for the right thing.

Last fall, the Republicans claimed a strategy to fund the new federal budget except Homeland Security with its illegal immigrant amnesty: They decided to hold that section for later (February 2015), then have a debate about these two issues separate from the rest of the budget. They thought that when voters saw the wrongness of combining security with illegality, they would support Republican attempts to remove the illegal immigrant sections.

Instead, Obama, other Democrats (and much media commentary) have defined the terms of the debate with a new phrase: “a clean bill.” Now, you’d think a “clean bill” would deal with just the main issue, homeland security; but what you hear everywhere during this debate is a “clean bill” is one that combines the two issues: a not-clean (dirty?) bill has amendments to remove the illegal immigrant language.

So, Republicans who vote against Obama’s “clean bill” are accused of voting to “shut down the government,” or at least the part that defends us from terrorists blowing up a local mall, while Democrats who vote for the “clean bill” adopt Homeland Security funding with language that rewards illegal entrance into the country. Following this?

Republicans remain divided between responsible tea party members and those who want them to just give in, allow Obamacare and illegal immigration to be funded now, hoping to fix them later when Obama is gone and a fiscally responsible Republican president has taken his place.

Only problem with this is that in two years, it might be too late to reverse the effects of Obamacare and millions more illegal immigrants getting government benefits and therefore, Democrats hope, voting Democrat as soon as they become citizens, for the rest of their grateful needy lives.

Well, the Republicans caved and Congress just voted for a “clean bill” that encourages illegal immigration as well as probably illegal presidential actions. Some Republicans argue that a recent decision by a Texas judge to stop Obama’s order ending deportation of illegal immigrants (he wants us to call them “citizens in waiting”) already solved the problem. Others say we can’t depend on winning the Obama administration’s appeal of this ruling and should have done the right thing, no matter what the electoral cost. I’ve also heard a persuasive argument that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could have simply changed the rules to allow only 51 votes to pass the Republican position, the way the Democrats changed the rules to pass Obamacare with no help from Republicans.

I think all Republicans need to understand that they all want the same thing: the right thing. They should stop attacking each other while they work out a strategy that will help voters understand that they are trying to save America, for us and for those potential American citizens who wait to come here legally.

Barbara Anderson of Marblehead is president of Citizens for Limited Taxation and a Salem News columnist.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle-Tribune newspapers.

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