The GOP amnesty two-step

Let’s give the Republican leadership their due: they don’t keep their voters waiting long before disappointing them.  Their big wave election was less than a month ago, and they’re already letting the Democrats half-neutralize it, while essentially conceding the revised Obama model of U.S. government, in which the all-powerful executive writes laws, while the rubber-stamp legislature grumbles a bit.

Fox News describes today’s budget news as “the opening move in a shutdown chess match.”  If so, it’s the kind of opening move where one player throws his bishops, knights, and castles out the window:

House Speaker John Boehner announced plans Tuesday to effectively push off a looming battle over President Obama’s immigration policies until next year, while potentially averting a partial government shutdown later this month.

The speaker met behind closed doors Tuesday with fellow Republicans. Boehner is attempting a balancing act — as he tries to avert a budget showdown, while also letting conservatives vent over the president’s controversial executive actions on immigration.

Congress needs to approve a new spending bill by Dec. 11 to avoid a partial shutdown, and opposition to Obama’s immigration approach has complicated that effort.

The plan, as of Tuesday, is a two-step approach. The House would vote later this week for a largely symbolic measure disapproving Obama’s executive actions to suspend deportations for millions of immigrants here illegally. The bill would try to block those actions, but would certainly face a presidential veto, if it made it past the Senate.

The House would then vote next week on a must-pass spending bill, with a twist.

The plan would fund most elements of the government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2015. But, under one proposal, it would only fund immigration-related activities until early next year — setting up a new fight over immigration in early 2015, when Republicans control both the House and Senate.

So Obama shreds the Constitution today – and builds up a huge dependent media-friendly constituency that will vigorously support his power grab – while the Republicans promise a counter-move is coming sometime next year, with a little symbolic disapproval to tide us over.  Meanwhile, they’ll let the Party that got annihilated in the midterm elections control next year’s budget on their way out of the Capitol.  Maybe they’ll build a short-term self-destruct switch into immigration funding while they pump the rest of the Democrat agenda full of cash… a strategy that seems pretty well designed to set up a Spring 2015 media narrative in which Republicans are villains, while their dispirited supporters have already given up on them.  When Step One of the “two-step approach” is symbolic, Step Two probably isn’t going to shake the pillars of Heaven.

The American people loathe the Democrat Party agenda, as they made abundantly clear during the midterm elections.  There is no good reason to give the lame-duck losers anything beyond the funds necessary to see them off and get the new Congress seated.  The Republican leadership isn’t going to have much luck passing out tortured explanations for why they pre-emptively surrendered the power of the purse to a President and Party that just got shellacked.  It’s exactly the sort of capitulation to the losers that makes Republican voters throw up their hands and wonder why they bothered turning out for the midterm elections.  They know damn well that if Democrats had just taken the Senate in a stunning electoral victory, they wouldn’t be making any huge concessions to the defeated Republicans, and the Beltway culture would not expect them to.

Boehner declared that Obama’s amnesty grab was “a serious breach of our Constitution.”  He’s right, but someone in his position cannot say such things without proposing commensurate action.  That’s what leadership is all about.  Saying the Constitution has been violated, while refusing to do anything dramatic to defend it, concedes the balance of passion to the aggressors – it’s clear that Obama’s amnesty crusade means more to him than defending the Constitution means to congressional leadership.  The notion of the Constitution as an antiquated document inadequate to the needs of a fast-moving modern society is thus advanced.  Congress is essentially agreeing with Obama’s portrait of them as an entirely subordinate branch of the government, bereft of any real power to push back against executive usurpation.  When the despot decides some new crusade requires the seizure of further powers, he’ll just take them, and Congress will mumble something about how outrageous it all is, but they won’t do anything about it.  The constitutional separation of powers stands revealed as a handshake agreement, a legal regime that stood only until an ambitious executive decided to knock it down.

This collapse of Republican will is also a validation of Obama’s dismissal of the midterm election as irrelevant and meaningless.  Remember, his line all along is that the people who voted for a Republican Senate count for less than the people who didn’t bother to vote at all.  Obama declared himself the avatar of those who didn’t bother to vote – another act of aggression, a taunt leveled not just at Republicans but the American people.  He’s wagering that you’re so cynical, exhausted, and subdued that you won’t stand up for the separation of powers, citizenship, border security, or the rule of law.  He doesn’t think you want those things as much as his favorite new constituency wants their amnesty, and he feels not even the slightest vestigial sense of duty toward you.  He figures you tuckered yourself out with that midterm election, and now you’ll just sit home and watch him act as he pleases, growing increasingly disenchanted with those you elected to stop him.

Obama is also counting on the lassitude of an electorate that has lost control over the largely autonomous bureaucratic State.  You cast your vote every couple of years, and nothing really changes.  When you complain, you’re told that a great deal of American life is now beyond the vote, and certainly beyond individual judgment.  Watching the Republican leadership meekly sign off on letting the rest of the system rumble and snort along for a year reinforces the idea that elections don’t matter all that much any more.  Even when a historic election revealed the American voter’s true opinion of last year’s shutdown crisis, the Beltway clings to its preferred narrative that the power of the purse is a dead letter, along with every other power Congress ever held to resist or discipline the executive branch.  The Beltway has its ambitions, and no mere election will be allowed to thwart them.  The sheer absurdity of conducting the amnesty power grab in the name of people who are not citizens of the United States adds to its delightful flavor as a rebuke of constitutional republicanism.  The people who voted in 2014 matter less than the people who didn’t vote… or even the people who weren’t eligible to vote.

If none of that sounds right to you, it’s not too late to let both Barack Obama and the Republican leadership know that their assessment of your honor and passion was incorrect.