US faces another partial government shutdown

Republicans threaten to freeze cash for Homeland Security over Obama’s decision allowing illegal immigrants to stay.

US - DHS officials
The secretary of the DHS, Jeh Johnson, centre, along with his predecessors Tom Ridge, left, and Michael Chertoff at a media event in Washington earlier this month [EPA]

Like a bad dream, Washington is under threat of another partial government shutdown. Unless Congress acts by Friday, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) – the US government’s crime-fighting wing – will face pay freezes and work slowdowns.

Republicans – who now control Congress – are refusing to fund the department past this weekend unless US President Barack Obama dials back an executive action (a Presidential move that does not require Congressional support) he took late last year that allows roughly five million illegal immigrants to stay in the United States. DHS is responsible for managing immigration and border security in the US, which is why they’re being targeted.

The White House has characterised the potential shutdown as a threat to national security although they’ve been hard-pressed to illustrate how America’s enemies will exploit the shutdown to launch an attack. Nonetheless, if it happens, this would be the second partial shutdown in two years effectively hobbling a US government that’s once again the victim of fighting between Republicans and Obama.

Polls show that 81 per cent of Americans disagreed with the last shutdown in October, 2013. So why threaten it again? One of the primary reasons is that Republicans still need to prove something to the people who helped them take back Congress this year.

“The fight is being driven by Tea Party Republicans and others in the base, who see Obama’s action on immigration as executive power run amok,” says Matthew Dallek, assistant professor of political management at George Washington University. “This is another test, as was the last shutdown, of Republican resolve on a priority issue – reining in Obama’s alleged overreach.”

But will it work? During a town hall on Wednesday in Miami, the president himself made it clear he not only believes it won’t, but it will ultimately hurt Republicans in next year’s presidential election, particularly with immigrant voters.

“One of the things I’ve learned in this position is that as the only office in which you’re the president of all the people, not just some, you have to be thinking not just in terms of short-term politics,” Obama told the audience. “Over the long term, this [immigration] is going to get solved because at some point there’s going to be a President Rodriguez or there’s going to be a President Chen.”

Source: Al Jazeera