Safeguarding the country should be the highest priority for the president and Congress. Yet politics and a power struggle have gotten in the way, putting Americans at risk.
Democrats are pitted against Republicans in a showdown between the executive and legislative branches of government. And once again, Americans and our friends and enemies around the world are forced to watch this national theater of silliness.
Caught in the middle is funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which could run out at midnight Friday. The House has passed a bill that would extend funding for the department through Sept. 30. But it would also overturn President Barack Obama’s executive action in November to shield millions of immigrants from deportation even though they are in the U.S. illegally.
Democrats want a clean funding bill — that is, one without the House’s side-show move — and are blocking a vote to open debate on the measure. The Senate on Wednesday appeared to reach a deal with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Homeland Security funding. To his credit, McConnell got a clean bill passed Wednesday afternoon without it being muddied with the immigration issue. But the measure’s progress remained uncertain in the House.
The Senate planned to take up a separate bill later to block Obama’s executive action.
Unless the problem is solved, the mammoth, post-9/11 department will shut down, idling about 30,000 of its 230,000 employees. As during the last GOP-forced government shutdown that lasted 16 days in October 2013, essential employees would continue working but without regular paychecks.
This Homeland Security showdown comes at a particularly bad time. Terrorism threats have been made against shopping malls in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West.
In the background are the Islamic State’s gruesome public killings of hostages. The U.S. is engaged with other nations in a campaign to eliminate the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere. A Homeland Security shutdown could make this country more vulnerable to those radical militants.
“Border security is not free, you gotta pay for it,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reminds Congress.
Some leading Republicans had said they’d never take the country to this precipice again, yet here we are. For the safety of the nation, the power play should end as soon as possible. Americans are justifiably tired of finger-pointing and wondering when the GOP will come through on its promise to fix a broken Congress.
If the GOP really wants to be constructive, it should approve Homeland Security funding, and then lead Congress toward passing meaningful and comprehensive immigration reform.