The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Sarah Chacko, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The opening gambit by Senate Democrats on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security gives a strong signal about how the party intends to handle its position as the minority on the Senate floor.

The strategy of using fundamental floor procedures to block action on controversial immigration pieces in the bill carries political risks in the near term, however, and big questions over what will be a long congressional term of votes.

For the DHS bill, it has meant keeping united lawmakers who span the caucus’ political spectrum. Democrats will be challenged to keep that coalition together as Republicans try to peel some of the ranks away and bring forward legislation in areas such as health care that present tough choices for members.

“The process is going to vary from bill to bill,” said Senator Angus King, the Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats. “It depends on what the issues are. I just don’t think a budget bill is the proper place to legislate policy.”

The blockade on the DHS bill is a shift from the strategy the Democrats undertook last month with the first major bill before the Senate, the measure mandating completion of the Keystone XL. While a majority of Democrats opposed the bill, they debated amendments and ultimately helped pass the bill.

“It’s no fun being in the minority, and I hope it ends soon, but as long as we’re in the minority, I think we should try to be constructive,” Senator Richard J. Durbin, the No. 2 in Democratic leadership, said at the time.

But Democrats changed up for the DHS bill. Tied to the measure are provisions that would block or roll back President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration and restrict his ability to take further actions in the future.

Even as Republicans offered alternative proposals to minimize the impact on immigration policy, Democrats balked. Democratic leaders likened any attempt to tie DHS funding to immigration riders to “hostage taking.”

“People need to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time,” said New Mexico Democrat Martin Heinrich, who helped pull the chamber together this week for a bipartisan lunch. “There are times we’re going to throw down and fight and that should not keep us from working with people when there’s constructive common ground. On this issue we have some very substantial differences, clearly.”

Does that mean the Democrats are not interested in being constructive?

“Absolutely not. We’re being very constructive. We want to pass a bill that has been … worked out in a bipartisan way,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). “Who is not being constructive? Ted Cruz and all of the Republicans who are following him and who say, ‘I want my way on an extraneous issue — an important issue but an extraneous issue, immigration — and I’m going to hold this bill up and shut down a good portion of the government if I don’t get my way.’ It’s clear.”

Democrats who helped move the pipeline legislation to the floor were eager for a broad energy debate and hoped the open amendment debate promised by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would give them the chance to change the bill or at least make it easier to swallow.

In the end, however, many of the proposals faced 60-vote thresholds on motions to table, none of which Democrats were able to overcome with their 46 votes alone.

On the DHS bill, Democrats say they don’t want to trade funding over policy.

“We can debate immigration,” New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, who leads the appropriations subcommittee that oversees DHS funding, said on the floor. “I think members of the Democratic caucus would be happy to do that. … But this is not the time for us to have this debate. Now we need to be funding the Department of Homeland Security so they can continue to do their work.”

So the minority is using its greatest procedural power — the filibuster — to stop the measure altogether and push consideration of a “clean” bill, free of the contentious immigration provisions.

Though some Democrats previously expressed reservations about the president’s actions, the party united in opposition to the House-passed bill. The only member to break ranks came from the Republican side, Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), said in a statement the measure “complicates the process of finding a solution.”

While Republicans attempt to paint the move as obstructionist, Democrats are unapologetic as DHS funding stands to run out in a little more than three weeks.

“It’s still hostage taking, because it’s attached to funding the Homeland Security bill. We’re now only debating the size of the ransom,” said Schumer. “To my dear Republican friends, go back to the drawing board. You control the Senate. … It’s your responsibility to find a way out of this.

Photo: Center for American Progress Action Fund via Flickr

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Donald Trump

Image via Twitter

A year after former President Donald Trump left the White House and Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the United States, Trump continues to have considerable influence in the Republican Party. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Trump critic turned Trump sycophant, recently told Fox News that having a “working relationship” with Trump must be a litmus test for anyone in a GOP leadership role in Congress. But an NBC News poll, conducted in January 14-18, 2022, finds that many Republican voters identify as Republicans first and Trump supporters second.

Analyzing that poll in the New York Times on January 21, reporters Leah Askarinam and Blake Hounshell, explain, “Buried in a new survey published today is a fascinating nugget that suggests the Republican Party may not be as devoted to Trump as we’ve long assumed. Roughly every month for the last several years, pollsters for NBC News have asked: ‘Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?’ Over most of that time, Republicans have replied that they saw themselves as Trump supporters first.”

Keep reading... Show less

Ivanka Trump, right

Image via @Huffington Post

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s select committee on the January 6, 2021 insurrection moves along, it is examining Ivanka Trump’s actions that day — especially the former White House senior adviser urging her father, then- President Donald Trump, to call off his supporters when the U.S. Capitol Building was under attack. This week, Ivanka Trump’s importance to the committee is examined in a column by liberal Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent and an article by blogger Marcy Wheeler.

Sargent notes that the committee’s “new focus on Ivanka Trump” shows that it “is developing an unexpectedly comprehensive picture of how inextricably linked the violence was to a genuine plot to thwart a legitimately elected government from taking power.”

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}