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Dems:GOP DHS Strategy Political Blunder02/28 14:25

   Democrats are losing some skirmishes over the Department of Homeland 
Security, but many feel they are winning a political war that will haunt 
Republicans in 2016 and beyond.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrats are losing some skirmishes over the Department 
of Homeland Security, but many feel they are winning a political war that will 
haunt Republicans in 2016 and beyond.

   Democrats lacked the votes Friday to force Republicans to fund the 
department for a year with no strings. Still, even some Republicans say party 
leaders are on a perilous path with a very public ideological struggle only 
highlighting the GOP's inability to pass contested legislation and possibly 
worsening its weak relationship with Hispanic voters.

   Worst of all, numerous lawmakers said, Republican leaders have offered no 
plausible scenario for a successful ending, so they simply are delaying an 
almost certain and embarrassing defeat.

   Conservatives defend their doggedness. They say they courageously are 
keeping promises to oppose President Barack Obama's liberalization of 
deportation policies, which they consider unconstitutional. Several said their 
constituents support their stand, while others said the issue transcends 
politics.

   As a deadline fast approached Friday night, the House agreed to extend the 
department's funding for a week. But some in both parties said the Republicans 
were losing political ground.

   "It's bad policy and bad politics," said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of 
Maryland, who once oversaw his party's House campaigns. The short-term fix, he 
said, "doesn't help the country, and it just shows that they're incapable of 
governing" despite holding House and Senate majorities.

   As for an important voting group in presidential elections, Van Hollen said: 
"Any effort to earn the support of Hispanic voters has been torpedoed by these 
antics."

   Some Republicans are nearly as pessimistic.

   "Bad tactics yield bad outcomes," GOP Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania told 
reporters. Republican leaders, he said, have engaged "in tactical malpractice, 
and at some point we're going to vote on the negotiated Homeland Security 
appropriations bill," a bipartisan plan that most Republicans oppose but cannot 
kill.

   Weeks ago, Republicans embarked on a strategy that targeted Obama's 
executive order protecting millions of immigrants from deportation. They voted 
to cut off the department's money flow after Feb. 27 unless the order was 
rescinded.

   But they never figured how to overcome Democratic delaying tactics in the 
Senate that, as many predicted, blocked the GOP plan. Stymied, Senate 
Republican leaders agreed to fund the department for the rest of the budget 
year, through September, and to deal separately with immigration.

   House Republicans rejected that approach. Shortly before Friday's midnight 
deadline, the House extended funding for a week without resolving the larger 
dispute.

   "We all know how this is going to turn out," said an exasperated Republican, 
Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho. "Politically, it's devastating."

   Democrats turned up the heat, saying short-term extensions will damage 
morale at the agency.

   "It's a staggering failure of leadership that will prolong this manufactured 
crisis of theirs and endanger the security of the American people," said House 
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

   But Republican Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona said he and his fellow 
conservatives are taking a principled stand against Obama's "unconstitutional" 
action. The president, he said, has forced lawmakers to choose between 
"potential short-term national security threats and almost inevitable long-term 
damage to the constitutional foundation of the nation."

   He and his allies will "do the right thing, even if it doesn't make us look 
good," Franks said.

   Lawmakers from strongly Republican districts tend to closely track the 
fiercely conservative voters who can dominate GOP primary elections. Rep. Kenny 
Marchant of Texas said he tried to persuade some of his Dallas-area 
constituents that a federal judge's order to freeze Obama's move lessened the 
urgency to use Homeland Security funding as political leverage.

   "But they don't have the confidence back home that some of us do" about the 
likely longevity of the judge's order, Marchant said.

   He said his supporters see reversing Obama's order as more important than 
preventing a partial and temporary funding lapse at Homeland Security. He noted 
that most agency employees are considered "essential" and would stay on the job.

   After Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012, a Republican 
National Committee-commissioned report said the party must embrace 
"comprehensive immigration reform" to win future elections, including the 2016 
presidential contest.

   Democrats say Republicans are heading in the wrong direction.

   Pelosi hinted at possible Democratic campaign themes next year when she said 
of the funding fight: "This crisis exists only because Republicans prioritize 
anti-immigrant extremism over the safety of the American people."

   Republican Rep. Peter King of New York said his party's wounds are 
self-inflicted.

   "Politically it's going to kill us," he said of conservatives' demands to 
link Homeland Security funding with Obama's immigration policy. "Morally, 
you're equating an immigration order with the lives of American citizens."

   "I've had it with this self-righteous delusional wing of the party that 
leads us over the cliff," King said.


(KA)


 
 
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