Good for the Country or Good for the Party?

Nicole Cvjetnicanin ’18 – Inside Politics Program

Since November 2014, President Obama has announced a series of executive orders focusing on the divisive issue of immigration reform. The significant order was presented on November 20, 2014. Obama’s proposal would offer temporary legal status to over five million undocumented immigrants. The passage of this particular executive order catalyzed an intense debate across party lines, ultimately causing a variety of past-sidelined issues to come to the forefront of attention.

Early this year, the House passed a budget bill that would renew funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which will shut down if a bill is not passed by February 27. The budget bill includes several amendments related to immigration. The proposed amendments to the DHS bill would essentially “bar the funds to carry out” President Obama’s executive order, as well as reverse a 2012 order by the president, which protected undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children. [2]

Once the DHS budget bill reached the Senate chamber, Senate Democrats impeded debate on the bill with a 52-47 vote, with 60 votes required to advance the bill. [1] According to CNN, Senate Democrats voted to halt the advancement of the bill out of opposition to the immigration amendments, which were added when the bill cleared the Republican-controlled House. [1] In response to the vote, Senate Republicans are now accusing their Democratic counterparts of attempting to deny funding for the Department of Homeland Security, while Democrats are accusing Republicans of steering the national agenda by bringing unrelated issues, such as immigration, into a bill that will help protect the country from terrorist threats. [2]

Sen. John Cornyn (R – TX) has stated that Republicans will need to revise the DHS bill if Senate Democrats refuse to vote to advance it, and suggests that dropping the amendment regarding the President’s 2012 order may be necessary. [2] Other members of the Republican leadership say that the amendment regarding Obama’s November 2014 order should be eliminated. Either way, Republicans are going to have to make concessions if the Department of Homeland Security is to stay up and running after February 27. They need to decide which is more important to the party: issues regarding immigration or domestic security.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – KY) has stated that he does not believe that the Senate will make any progress with the bill and will need to send it back to the House. [3] On the contrary, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R – OH) says that it is up to the Senate Democrats because “there is no point for the House to move if Democrats will continue to filibuster”. [3] The Republican-controlled House will likely resist changing the very amendments that they fought to include in the bill, resulting in a perpetual cycle of rejection.

Congress has become known for its unwillingness to work across party lines, lack of compromise, and growing polarization. If the government shutdown of 2013 is any indication of a continuing pattern, both parties are more concerned with maintaining their ideological identities and fighting for their separate platform than what is actually good for the country. If Republicans in the Senate can make even small concessions on this DHS bill, such as taking out one of the amendments, it will be a step in the right direction, especially if Senate Democrats vote to advance the bill with the included changes.