White House: GOP ‘playing with fire’ on DHS funding

The Washington Examiner — The White House is accusing Republicans of “playing with fire” in their strategy to use Homeland Security funding to challenge President Obama’s executive action on immigration, after the deadly terrorist attack at a French satirical magazine.

Team Obama has long doubted that Republicans would unite behind an effective strategy to fight the president’s efforts to spare up to 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation. And now, the attack at the Charlie Hebdo office that left 12 people dead in Paris, they argue, offers clearer proof of the folly of such efforts.

“I think most Americans, and even some Republican lawmakers, would think they are treading on dangerous ground here,” a senior administration official told the Washington Examiner. “They’re playing with fire. I think that’s even more obvious this week.”

To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers agreed to fund DHS through late February. Conservatives argued that with control of both chambers of Congress, the deal gave them more leverage to confront Obama on his immigration order.

Following the Paris attack, that theory is being put to the test even sooner than Republicans expected.

GOP leaders insist that they can roll back Obama’s executive action without putting DHS funding in danger.

“I don’t believe the funding for the department is, in fact, at risk,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio told reporters Thursday.

However, it’s not clear how Republicans plan to stop the funding for the Obama administration to carry out the president’s executive action while preserving the dollars necessary to keep the rest of the department running.

House Republicans plan to hold a conference meeting Friday morning to plot strategy.

As Republicans try to articulate a nuanced position, the White House is sticking to a far simpler message, arguing that conservatives are playing a dangerous political game.

Ironically, the White House rhetoric now is not all that different from that of Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush. The Bush administration routinely played the national security card when lambasting Democratic legislation.

The department was created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and has handled issues as diverse as immigration, national disasters and plots against the homeland.

Given the advantage that Republicans have long enjoyed on issues of national security — and their relentless insistence that Obama’s policies have eroded it — some conservatives are uncomfortable with the White House putting them on the defensive.

“It would be the mother of all errors,” a senior House GOP aide told the Examiner. “We have to do everything we can to make it abundantly clear we’re not imperiling national security. I can see how this argument might play out. Yeah, I’m worried.”

Republicans are in a tough spot. If they appear complicit in Obama’s executive action, the party faithful will accuse them of wasting the powers that come with their new majority as well as supporting blanket amnesty.

Yet any bill that rolls back the president’s executive action faces a certain veto.

“Republicans may just be saber-rattling,” said Houston-based Democratic strategist Keir Murray. “If the immigration showdown is not resolved by late February, it’s hard for me to imagine Republican leadership would allow [funding to lapse].”

Yet, Republicans are banking that Obama would absorb most of the blame if he chooses to veto legislation passed by the House and Senate.

“He has to take responsibility for shutting down Homeland Security,” insisted Rep. Hal Rogers, R- Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.