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GOP Leaders Find a Way to Break the DHS Impasse. But Will It Pass?

House leaders want to pass a three-week extension. But House Speaker John Boehner won't get help from Democrats to push it over the finish line.
Image: Hal Rogers
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, speaks with reporters in a basement corridor at the Capitol after House Republicans held a closed-door meeting on how to deal with the impasse over the Homeland Security budget, in Washington, Thursday night, Feb. 26, 2015. GOP lawmakers have been trying to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration through the funding for the DHS which expires Friday night. Sounding retreat, House Republicans agreed Thursday night to push short-term funding to prevent a partial shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security while leaving in place Obama administration immigration policies they have vowed to repeal. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)J. Scott Applewhite / AP

With the Department of Homeland Security set to run out of money by midnight, House Republican leaders have finally come up with a solution to fund the department and end their immigration showdown -- albeit temporarily. Per NBC’s Capitol Hill team, House Republicans are moving on a bill to fund DHS for three weeks, and the money isn’t tied to rolling back President Obama’s immigration actions. A final vote on this measure is expected either later this morning or early afternoon. Once the legislation passes, the House plans to pass a motion to go to conference with Senate over how to fund the department for the rest of the year. But here’s the hitch, as our Capitol Hill team notes: House Democrats aren’t willing to bail out House Speaker John Boehner; they don’t want a three-week extension. (Indeed, we can report that Democrats will be whipping AGAINST the bill.) So if NO Democrats vote for the bill, Boehner is going to have find 218 votes to pass it -- when a sizable chunk of House conservatives still want a fight over Obama’s immigration actions. If history is any guide here, we’re not sure this will pass. Then again, does the GOP’s larger House majority after the party’s 2014 midterm victories give Boehner a little more cushion? We’ll find out.

Boehner is trying to buy time

The reason this is the politically smart way for the House GOP leadership to go is that the three-week extension gives Republicans time to find how the 5th Circuit is going to rule on the Obama administration’s request for a stay on the immigration action. If the 5th Circuit does NOT give the administration a stay, then in three weeks, funding DHS for the rest of the year will be a layup. So Boehner is trying to buy time, but will his conference give him the time.

The Senate moves on its own legislation

Over on the Senate side, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that the chamber has reached an agreement to hold votes on a clean DHS funding bill -- for an entire year -- starting at 10:00 am ET today. The Senate will hold three votes:

1) a procedural motion (cloture) on the House-passed DHS funding bill (needs 60 to pass)

2) an amendment to replace the House-passed bill with a clean DHS appropriations bill that funds DHS until the end of September (needs 50)

3) final vote to pass the clean DHS bill (needs 50)

Thorp also notes that the Senate will also hold a procedural vote Friday on the separate measure to prohibit the Obama administration from implementing its 2014 executive action with respect to deferred action, immigration, and enforcement -- a motion that is expected to fail to get the 60 votes needed to proceed. The vote comes after the Congressional Budget Office sent a letter saying that this measure will actually INCREASE DEFICITS by $6.3 billion over the next ten years. Those deficits come as a result of lost revenue from Social Security taxes that won't be paid by immigrants who would no longer be eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program if the bill were to become law.

Picking fights instead of governing

In addition to the GOP’s battle over Obama’s immigration actions, it’s worth noting all the different fights congressional Republicans are picking -- including against Loretta Lynch’s nomination as U.S. attorney general, against Washington DC and Mayor Muriel Bower over the city’s marijuana legalization. In the two months since taking complete control of Congress, Republicans have picked more fights (over immigration, Lynch, DC marijuana) than they have passed legislation that has become law (the Clay Hunt SAV Act and the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act).

Walker’s stumble at CPAC yesterday

Remember when we said how conservatives were beginning to give Scott Walker the benefit of the doubt -- and how that’s a powerful thing in American politics? Well, that changed a bit yesterday after Walker APPEARED to compare handling Wisconsin union protestors to ISIS at CPAC yesterday. “If I could take on 100,000 protestors, I could do the same across the world,” he said. That drew a rebuke from National Review’s Jim Geraghty: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received a lot of completely undeserved grief from the national news media in the past weeks. But he may have made a genuine unforced error in one of his remarks [yesterday].” Rick Perry also pounced on Walker’s remarks, per MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt. “You are talking about, in the case of ISIS, people who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes, who are the face of evil. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate,” he said. How do you know when you’re a frontrunner? One, you start rising in the polls and in fundraising. Two, you start getting attacked from others in your party. Here was the statement from Walker’s team yesterday: “He was in no way comparing any American citizen to ISIS. What the governor was saying was when faced with adversity he chooses strength and leadership.”

Another reminder how much of the 2016 GOP field isn’t that fluent when talking about foreign policy and national security

Yet there’s a bigger point to make about Walker’s stumble: It’s yet ANOTHER reminder how many of the GOP 2016ers aren’t all that fluent when talking about foreign policy and national security. With the exception of Lindsey Graham and maybe Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum, the likely Republican presidential field has little to no foreign-policy experience – when it’s possible that foreign policy becomes a major part of the 2016 general election.

Friday’s CPAC schedule

8:40 am ET: Marco Rubio

9:00 am: Rick Perry

10:20 am: Rand Paul

12:20 pm: Rick Santorum

1:40 pm: Jeb Bush

4:20 pm: John Bolton

The past CPAC straw poll winners

On Saturday at 5:10 pm ET, the results from the CPAC straw poll will be announced, but here’s a friendly reminder: The straw poll winner hasn’t always been the best measure of who will win the party’s presidential nomination. Here are the past winners:

2014: Rand Paul

2013: Rand Paul

2012: Mitt Romney

2011: Ron Paul

2010: Ron Paul

2009: Mitt Romney

2008: Mitt Romney

2007: Mitt Romney

2006: George Allen

2005: Rudy Giuliani

So that’s a Paul who’s won five out of the last five years, and either a Romney or Paul for the last EIGHT years. Bottom line: What happens at CPAC usually stays at CPAC. Here’s the link to all of NBC’s CPAC coverage. And here’s a video of the best zingers yesterday.

The GOP’s other cattle call

And by the way, CPAC isn’t the only GOP cattle call that’s happening this week/weekend. Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, and Marco Rubio are all addressing the Club for Growth conference in Florida. Here was Jeb Bush yesterday, per the Washington Post: “Jeb Bush acknowledged that he may not be a flashy speaker or make the loudest arguments. But the Republican presidential hopeful offered himself to his skeptical right flank Thursday night as a fellow conservative who is passionate about fixing problems and has a record of doing so. ‘There are going to be a lot better speakers than me,’ Bush told a gathering of the Club for Growth, a conservative advocacy group that has long antagonized the GOP establishment. ‘That’s great. I’m all for it. If I could get better at it, I’d be all in — trust me. But the simple fact is, I got to be governor of this state — this purple state, this wacky, wonderful state — for eight years. I ran as a conservative, I said what I was going to do, and I had a chance to do it. And trust me, I did.’”

The tragic – and bizarre – story out of Missouri

Finally, we have to end on the tragic -- and bizarre -- story out of Missouri. “Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, who had recently launched a Republican campaign for governor, fatally shot himself Thursday in what police described as an ‘apparent suicide’ — just minutes after inviting reporters to his suburban St. Louis home for an interview. Schweich's death stunned many of Missouri's top elected officials, who described him as a ‘brilliant’ and ‘devoted’ public servant with an "unblemished record" in office. Just 13 minutes before police got an emergency call from his home, Schweich had a phone conversation with The Associated Press about his plans to go public that afternoon with allegations that the head of the Missouri Republican Party had made anti-Semitic comments about him.” Just wow.

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