Short of flying giraffes in the chamber of the House, nothing should surprise Americans about their Congress. The latest chapter in the GOP's high dysfunction as the "governing" party is the suggestion by some Republicans not to fund the Department of Homeland Security so as to stick a knife in President Obama's immigration actions.
This latest romp through the surreal landscape of the 114th Congress comes after a month of embarrassing stumbles that have put in stark relief the GOP's not-ready-for-primetime control of both houses of Congress.
It all started with the circus-like coup attempt against Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), followed by a fantasy bill that seeks to deport all undocumented immigrants, an abortion bill that once again puts into question if GOP men understand the meaning of the word "rape," and now a fight over the border and Obama's immigration reforms of late last year.
Most Senate Democrats have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) saying that they will vote against any bill that messes with the president's executive actions. The Democratic House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) has told his colleagues to vote against any Republican bill that would seek to defund the immigration actions, too.
So faced with this mathematical certainty that they don't have the votes to both fully fund Homeland Security and consign immigrants to the deportation machine, it now seems that House Republicans have staggered into a new position.
Cue the flying giraffes. On the table now is the idea of forcing the president's hand by refusing to pass any Homeland Security funding bill -- a bill that would ensure that Homeland Security has the resources to defend the American people, at a time of rising global jihadist activity the mass murder of journalists in Paris and the continuing massacre of men, women and children by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).
At this point, there isn't one American who does not know that Republicans really, really don't like Obama. The last five years have been a tragic display of personal animus disguised as "philosophical differences," which has only harmed the country (government shutdown, debt-ceiling crisis, growth-killing austerity policies in the form of the sequester, among others).
But it takes a special form of mania to actually threaten the national security of America in order to stop Obama's immigration actions. Of course, the GOP could have stopped Obama long ago: They could have brought the bipartisan immigration-reform bill from the Senate and considered it in the House. But the bizarre fear that the bill could not be considered because it actually enjoys the support of moderate Republicans has led directly not only to Obama's actions but to this dead-end non-strategy of holding the nation's security hostage in the hopes that Obama and congressional Democrats will surrender on immigration.
I've been told by a senior White House official that Boehner truly wants immigration reform. According to this official, Boehner sees reform not just in terms of the benefits that would accrue to the country but as a matter of faith. As a good Catholic, he knows that expelling immigrants and other refugees smacks head-on with Catholic teachings -- and most obviously with the robust and biblical defense of immigrants emanating from Pope Francis.
At some point, the neverending carping about "conservative" Republicans causing trouble has to stop. The speaker of the House has the ultimate authority to decide what gets on the floor and what doesn't. Boehner's insistence on pleasing the radicals disguised as "conservative" Republicans starts to call into question his own integrity.
Aside from retaining his slippery grasp on his throne, what does Boehner really care about? Is he not the principled man that both Republicans and Democrats tell me he is in private? Or has Boehner morphed into yet another Washington apparatchik desperate to hold on to power even at the risk of making America vulnerable to a terrorist attack?
With Congress's approval rating down for the count, and Republican leaders desperate to not screw up the party's chances in 2016, you'd think that the bigger principle at stake is not one man's fate, wearing the crown of thorns that Boehner seems to endure by pleasing the radical right-wing, but the image and policy turnaround of a party that has come to be known as the "party of no."
Giraffes aside, it's hard to imagine that if the GOP allows Homeland Security to be willfully crippled by Congress, Republicans will not once again reap the opprobrium they earned during the GOP government shutdown. This stain may be impossible to wash off by 2016 -- and surely will continue to impact the following election cycles as well.
It's time for Speaker Boehner to bring order to his House and make sure America is not put in danger of terrorism because of "philosophical differences."