WASHINGTON — 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 the 2016 election and beyond.
Democrats lacked the votes Feb. 27 to force Republicans to fund the department for a year with no conditions attached. Still, even some Republicans say party leaders are on a perilous path that highlights the party’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 defeat.
Conservatives say they courageously are keeping promises to oppose President Barack Obama’s liberalization of deportation policies, which they consider unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives has agreed to extend the department’s funding for a week. But some in both parties said the Republicans were losing political ground.
The short-term fix “doesn’t help the country, and it just shows that they’re incapable of governing” despite holding House and Senate majorities, said Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who once oversaw his party’s House campaigns.
Some Republicans are nearly as pessimistic. “Bad tactics yield bad outcomes,” Rep. Charlie Dent told reporters.
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 They voted to cut off the Department of Homeland Security’s money flow after Feb. 27 unless the order was rescinded.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 Republican plan. 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. The House on Feb. 27 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. “Politically, it’s devastating.”
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.
Republican Rep. Peter King 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.”