President Obama and newly elected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will sit down this afternoon for a one on one conversation. It will mark the first time that the two party leaders meet face to face since Republicans swept control of congress in the November mid-terms. Rumors that Kentucky bourbon will be served have yet to be confirmed. Oh to be a fly on the wall. Can you say “awkward?”
Republicans are livid over the president’s decision to go it alone on immigration reform. McConnell is certain to make that point. I expect the conversation might go something like this:
MCCONNELL: Mr. President, as you might imagine my members are pretty upset over your executive actions on immigration reform. Perhaps your staff failed to inform you that elections were held a few weeks ago. My party…the Republican Party…won control over both houses of congress! Maybe you didn’t get the memo. Elections DO matter, Mr. President. I think we can agree on that.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (CHUCKLING) It’s funny to hear you say that. “Elections DO matter!” That’s a good one! Yes Mitch…can I call you Mitch? Yes Mitch, I DID get that memo. I decided that I would follow your experienced leadership and respond to those November election results in the same manner that you responded after I thumped McCain and Romney in 2008 & 2012. I ignored them. Look Mitch…if your members don’t like the way I handled immigration reform then all they have to do is pass an immigration bill that I can sign. Send it to me and we’ll have a real nice signing ceremony here at the White House. I’ll even supply the Kentucky bourbon.
Pleasantries aside the two leaders will hopefully move on to a serious discussion about the country’s business.
First up…passing a continuing resolution that will fund the government and avoid a government shutdown. The current funding bill expires on December 11.
McConnell has promised publically that there won’t be any government shutdowns. Say what you will about McConnell’s politics; he is a savvy political leader who has a tight rein on his members. If McConnell says he has the votes…he has the votes.
The Republican controlled House is another story. Speaker Boehner has yet to demonstrate that he has any control over his caucus. The right wing is incensed over the president’s executive orders on immigration reform. They see his announcement mere days after their mid-term victory as an intentional slap in the face. They have not been shy about the remedies they seek. Talk of censure, impeachment and shutdown are rampant.
You may recall that less than a year ago the right wing’s refusal d to pass a funding bill led to a 16 day shutdown of the federal government. The shutdown resulted in the furlough of 8 million government workers and a $24 billion dollar hit to an already shaky economy. The Republican brand took a huge PR hit and congressional approval ratings dropped into the single digits. No matter! The lunatic fringe has vowed to shut the place down again if Republican leadership does not take sufficient steps to reprimand the “imperialist” president for violating the constitution.
Because Speaker Boehner is bad at his job he continues to placate the radical right. This time he is offering a two part plan.
Part 1 would be to take a largely ceremonial vote on a bill that would dismantle the president’s executive orders on immigration. This is “ceremonial” because even if the bill passes the House it will never pass the Senate. Part 2 would be a vote on a bill that would fund government operations through September except those Homeland Security operations necessary to carry out the president’s executive orders.
Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson has testified that such a measure would not stop the president’s immigration efforts. It would merely slow down the construction of additional detention centers and reduce the number of additional law enforcement personnel the president wants assigned to protect our borders. Republicans have long criticized the president for not doing enough to strengthen our borders. Passing this bill would only prevent the president from giving them what they want.
While moderates seem to favor this convoluted approach the right wing crazies want nothing to do with it. They want the president punished for his executive actions. Nothing less will do. Why? Because this is the Tea Party factions last hurrah. The newly elected Republican caucus will have a far more moderate temperament than the existing bunch. So the far right wants to get their pound of flesh now…while they still have the chance. Boehner is reduced to playing referee.
The fight over how fund the government is not between Democrats and Republicans. The fight is between Republicans and Republicans. How this will end is anybody’s guess. Republicans have 8 days remaining to figure it out.
Meanwhile 8 million government workers search for holiday bargains; wondering if they’ll have pay checks to cover the bills.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the Republican Party!