The week began with the Senate demonstrating that widespread opposition to the ill-conceived cut to the COLAs of career military would not last the year. It may not even survive the debt limit raise that is coming soon. Even some of the staunchest, most stubborn defenders of the terrible breach of faith with 20 year veterans must have rethought their vote to put the military in their budget sites as the ovation rolled on and on for Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg at Tuesday’s State of the Union. His heroic, prolonged service was being applauded as well as his determination to recover from his injuries, but at least a few of the Members of Congress who had two weeks ago slashed at the pensions of men and women who have served multiple deployments like Remsburg must have thought to themselves: “Who am I going to encounter in my district that has been deployed ten times but who wasn’t injured and is instead just ticked at me for cutting their COLA and walking every precinct he or she can find?”
The House could send the Senate a debt limit with a repeal of the cut to the military COLA and a repeal of the hated medical device tax –70+ senators are pledged to both by most estimates– and sit back and see what Harry Reid does with the bill. That would be good policy and great politics.
Terrible politics and even worse policy is an ill-conceived attempt at “enhanced border security” that omits specifications of a long, strong, double-sided,access-road border fence spanning half of the 2000 mile border with Mexico. (Half of the border give or take a 100 miles is generally regarded as unpassable and suitable to non-fencing alternatives to security.) Yet the “immigration pricnicples” introduced by House leadership at the House GOP Retreat yesterday ignited the ruinous debate without stating clearly that the fence the base wants will be a spelled-out “must-have” in any bill. The completion of such a fence should be a trigger of the regularization, and the funds appropriated for it. Everyone acknowledges that the deeply flawed Senate bill contained a head-fake on the fence, and that lack of seriousness left the bill with a deserved reputation as a charade. The House leadership now wants its turn at playing at border security while avoiding the use of the “f-word.”
It is political insanity to begin the year with an assault on the career military and then to antagonize those Republican voters who, even as they support regularization of the nations vast population of illegals, want a visible, permanent obstacle to a new wave of illegal immigaration, not the promise of more Patrol Patrol that can be redeployed by executive order or drone patrols that can be grounded by the same. A fenc cannot be turned off. The double-sded fences accompanied by access roads cost money but do work. They work in San Diego and other areas where they have been built, and the House GOP leadership’s head-scraching refusal to bluntly get behind a fence has to be because that leadership doesn’t support a fence.
Which is one of the reasons why more than a majority of the caucus is opposed to doing anything on immigration in 2014. Rich Lowry estimated yesterday that one third of the House favors moving the first of many “piecemeal” bills, one-thrid opposes anything, and one third urges a delay until 2015 after the Senate is strengthened by at least a few new GOP members if not an outright majority.
I began 2013 hoping that a good bill would emerge from the Senate and was of course disappointed. I then hoped a fence bill would emerge from Chairman Mike Mccaul’s Homeland Security committee, and was again disappointed. (Here’s the transcript of my interview with Chairman McCaul on the subject from July 18 of last summer.)
Now the best option open to the GOP is “masterly inactivity” on immigration and a redoubled focus on the many horros of Obamacare, and somehow the House GOP allows this sort of story to emerge from its “unity-building” retreat.
Cutting the retorement pay of career military and pushing doomed immigration bills that lack even the most basic of gestures to the base is exactly what comes from an isolated, Beltway-centric House GOP leadership. If as is rumored, Congressman Jeb Hensarling and/or Congressman Tom Price challenge the established order for leadership in the next Congress at the organizing meeting of the incoming Congress in November after the elections, the events of the past three weeks will guide many votes.
The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker has the details of how “House Republicans spent a considerable portion of the first day of the event discussing immigration reform and debating whether they should move on it or delay action until after the November elections.”
Now members will get to hear from their districts about slamming the career military and refusing to build the fence, which is the twin accomplishments of the launch of the new year by the House GOP. “Nicely played Mr. Bond” doesn’t come to mind.