A partial government shutdown was narrowly avoided late Friday evening as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a surprise move to back legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for one week.
Pelosi’s support helped Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) move the one-week bill through the House in a 357-60 vote just after 10 p.m., with 55 Republicans and 5 Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed the one-week funding bill in a voice vote.
President Obama signed the bill just before midnight.
On Thursday Secretary Johnson gathered various federal, state, and local participants in homeland security to highlight the impact of a closure or continued delay in adopting more than a stop-gap Continuing Resolution. See details at DHS website.
Friday the Secretary released a 46-page Contingency Plan providing some specifics on how a hiatus in funding would impact each DHS agency and function.
There are 247 Republicans in the current House of Representatives. As recent votes demonstrate just about fifty are much more “Know-Nothings” than Reagan Republicans. Lincoln specifically fought the influence of the original Know-Nothings during the founding of the Republican Party.
The Know-Nothing movement of the 19th Century was a mostly non-urban, middle-class, nativist reaction to dramatic social and economic transformation that happened to coincide with a rapid influx of Irish and German Catholics. The strong anti-immigrant stance of the movement can be seen as projecting on specific “others” the blame for a great deal of threatening “otherness.”
In the current context, the power of this nativist — and nostalgic — minority is amplified by what I call the Cantor Effect and the structure of most party primaries.
The surprise defeat of Eric Cantor, the Republican House Majority Leader, in his 2014 primary has been credited (accurately or not) to the power of this highly motivated and well-organized rump of the Republican Party. They will show up and vote when other Republicans have not. Most estimates with which I am familiar suggest roughly 25-to-35 percent of self-identified Republicans perceive border security and immigration as top priorities. But in many congressional districts nearly two-thirds of actual primary voters consider these and related issues top priorities.
These latter-day Know-Nothings are not just willing to hold DHS hostage to achieve their rather specific objectives. They are holding-hostage the entire Republican Party, threatening Cantor-like outcomes in primaries across the nation unless their colleagues accommodate their priorities.
Hostage-taking is a reasonable choice for a minority attempting to punch-above its actual weight. Responding to such a tactic is always treacherous.