In the US House of Representatives Wednesday morning, legislators from both parties debated amendments to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that would undercut President Obama's executive actions on immigration, which the President has already promised to veto. Despite several of his colleagues' insistence that this has everything to do with immigration, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) took to the House floor to explain that his party was striking a blow against a "lawless" president. If you want to have a little fun with this, take a drink every time Boehner says "and I quote...", or as Boehner calls it, "warming up."
That all makes total sense, right? If someone gets a DUI, you obviously cut off funding for his gas money. This should completely satisfy the anti-immigration hardliners in the Republican conference.
Following that rousing speech, the House voted on the measures, and while the final bill passed by a convincing-enough margin of 237-190, there were ten Republican defections. Justin Amash (R-MI), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), Robert Dold (R-IL), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and David Valadao (R-CA) all voted against the final bill, while two Democrats, Brad Ashford (D-NE) and Collin Peterson (D-MN). defected and voted yes.
That's not earth-shaking, but it does show the general contours of the immigration rift among Republicans. Much more ominous is the vote total for another amendment, this one to defund the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a much more popular action that affects hundreds of thousands of so-called DREAMers, and has been in effect since 2012. That amendment was barely able to muster a majority of the House, passing by a 218-209 margin. Twenty-six Republicans voted against it, along with every single Democrat who voted.
The result is yet another indication that President Obama is correct when he says that the Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform bill could pass the House if Boehner would only allow a vote, even in this new, more Republican-heavy Congress, but it also sets up uncomfortable times for Republicans in the Senate. Several of them are hoping to run for president, and only Ted Cruz (R-TX) has cover to be this anti-immigrant, but worse than that, the Republicans are defending 24 Senate seats in 2016, the Democrats only ten. As bad as the 2014 map was for Democrats, 2016 will be for Republicans, and the last thing they need is to be swept up in the anti-immigration fervor that plays so well in safe, gerrymandered congressional districts. House Republicans are forcing their Senate counterparts to die on this immigration hill before the battle for 2016 has even begun.
Add to that the fact that they are, to quote Josh Earnest, mucking around with funding for the Department of Homeland Security the week after one of the highest-profile terrorist attacks in years, and you have a recipe for political disaster that Sam Kass couldn't cook up better for the White House. In addition to further alienating minority voters from Republicans, Democrats will beat Republicans like a bowl of egg whites for putting national security at risk in order to, as Sen. Harry Reid put it today, "tear families apart and deport young people who came to this country as babies."