With just two hours to spare, the Keystone Congress avoided a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security tonight, but only for one week. Earlier in the day the Republican controlled House failed to pass a bill to keep the Department open for three weeks. When Senate Republicans saw that, they immediately passed a bill to keep DHS open for one week, and the House reluctantly agreed. Three weeks was just a bridge too far for Republicans in the House.
At a time when our national security is threatened by ISIL and home-grown terrorists, rational people could not believe that Congress would allow the Department of Homeland Security to be shut down. Republican Congressman Peter King (R-NY) said “I am incredibly frustrated with the “self-righteous, delusional” wing of the party,” referring to his fellow Republicans. He said they are shutting down the Department of Homeland Security because they’re “obsessed with President Obama and immigration. King said it was like being surrounded by crazy people.
Senate Republicans cut a deal with Democrats this week and passed a clean bi-partisan bill to fund Homeland Security for the balance of the fiscal year. House Republicans refused to do that, and refused to keep it open for even three weeks. After the nearly unanimous condemnation of Republicans for shutting down DHS, Republicans voted at 10 PM, two hours before the shutdown, to keep it open for one week. Then they all went home. The one week extension would not have passed were it not for the votes of Democrats. Republicans alone would have shut DHS down at midnight.
Republicans campaigned on a pledge that if they controlled both Houses of Congress, they would end the gridlock in Washington, end shutdowns, and govern. Special interests plied them with over a billion in campaign funds to get that message out. The wishful-thinking voters fell for it and gave Republicans their largest majority since Herbert Hoover. Since they were sworn in, however, they have behaved like Keystone Cops, passing only a bill to force construction of the Keystone Pipeline, which the president warned them he would veto, and he did.
When it comes to must-pass legislation to protect the national security of our nation, they cannot put their hatred of Barack Obama and their proclivity for political theater aside long enough to actually govern. They do not want to govern, they want to make political statements and get on TV.
Voters should have known better than to elect them. Just a year earlier, Republicans shut down the entire government for three weeks. How quickly the public forgets. Just this week, terrorists made threats to blow up Mall of America or some other mall, like they did in Kenya. What an inconvenient time for Republicans to close Homeland Security.
Will voters remember that the GOP is playing games with their lives and their safety? Maybe for a few days until some viral video or a dress changing color gets the nation’s attention.
The majority of Republicans in the Senate have acted rationally and responsibly. Only a few, led by Ted Cruz and other slave state Senators, flirted with a DHS shutdown. The problem is in the House. And the problem in the House is that nearly every single Republican represents a gerrymandered district where there are so many Republicans, a Democrat has no chance. Therefore, they only have to please Republican voters, who are the majority in their districts, but are a small minority in the nation as a whole.
These Republicans get elected because Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers and other special interests pile on the campaign contributions. This is a problem that the Roberts Court created when it tossed out all the laws governing campaign finance, opening the floodgates of dark money into politics. Now, the rich special interests can buy government, and they have. Today is the result of that.
So Americans, feel safe for another week. The Keystone Congress will be back in action next week, however, so if you are thinking about travelling, you might want to think twice.
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