Homeland Insecurity

A last-minute deal with Democrats saves Boehner, who caves on immigration fight

It appears that the Homeland Security Department will remain open through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Various news outlets were reporting on Tuesday morning that House Speaker John Boehner had finally caved, agreeing to allow a vote on a "clean" DHS funding bill that didn't include amendments that attempted to roll back President Barack Obama's various executive actions on immigration.

Admittedly, Homeland Security wasn't in serious danger of shutting down. Most of the staff would remain working even if congressional dysfunction had caused a shutdown of Homeland Security because the work is considered vital. But Border Patrol agents and other employees wouldn't get paid until a funding deal was reached and the resulting paperwork nightmare would have cost a fortune at the agency.

The entire episode was a gigantic embarrassment for Boehner, who had promised to fight "tooth and nail" against Obama's executive actions that could extend protection from deportation to up to 5 million undocumented people now in the country. (A federal judge's ruling has delayed most of the program.)

Boehner was humiliated last Friday, Feb. 27, when a plan he'd pushed for a three-week extension of Homeland Security funding blew up in his face after he couldn't round up enough Republicans to support the plan and Democrats decided they didn't want to help him out of the jam.

The GOP revolt against Boehner stemmed from the notion that allowing a vote on a "clean" resolution—one that just funded Homeland Security through the rest of the fiscal year without attaching some amendments thwarting President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration—was capitulating to the lawlessness of the illegitimate non-lover of America now occupying the White House.

With conservatives unwilling to cave, Boehner was humiliated—and it appeared as if Republicans were once demonstrating that they can't govern if given power. As Rep. Peter King, a Republican moderate from New York, told MSNBC, "We should not put American lives at risk to win an immigration battle with the president. I've had it with this self-righteous, delusional wing of the party."

Southern Arizona Rep. Martha McSally seems to want to start hanging out with what King might call the non-delusional wing of the party. Sure, she first voted to tie the amendments to funding DHS as a matter of principle. But last week, she penned a USA Today column that decried the tactics of attaching the battle against Obama's executive action to Homeland Security funding, saying that "the president's actions should be reversed, but not by withholding funding from the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our country safe."

But McSally wasn't quite ready to join the likes of King or even Arizona GOP Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, who have both been condemning the House tactics of tying funding of Homeland Security to blocking Obama's executive actions. When asked directly last week if McSally's op-ed meant she would support a clean funding bill, spokesman Patrick Ptak said via email that the office was "monitoring closely to see how the Senate will act since the House has passed a DHS funding bill and will keep you updated."

McSally ended up voting for the three-week extension that lost on Friday afternoon, along with fellow Republican David Schweikert; on the other side were Republicans Matt Salmon, Trent Franks and Paul Gosar (who wanted to keep fighting the Obama administration over the executive actions) and Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick and Raul Grijalva, who hung together with the rest of the Democrats. The only Democratic defection was Kyrsten Sinema, who voted with McSally and Schweikert.

After Boehner's spectacular failure, the Senate threw Boehner him another lifeline: A bill that would keep DHS up and running for one week. On that one, Salmon, Trent and Gosar still voted no, along with Grijalva.

In a statement after the vote, McSally offered a general condemnation of both the White House and Congress along with a general reassurance that she would do the right thing on immigration—even if she remains reluctant to say what that right thing is when it comes to the all-important detail of dealing with the undocumented immigrants now in the United States.

"Instead of holding up funding for the men and women who secure our border and defend our homeland, Congress should act to stop the President's overreach by doing its job," McSally said. "I remained committed to ensuring that our homeland security assets are funded and will continue to work with my colleagues to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system."

Boehner was insisting over the weekend that he had struck no deal to present a clean funding bill, but by Tuesday morning, he was meeting with his caucus to let them know that they would have to find another vehicle to battle Obama's executive actions because a clean DHS budget bill was on the horizon.

Rock On

Rio Nuevo board agrees to sell Rialto Theatre to nonprofit venue managers

There was a lot to celebrate at the Rialto Theatre's annual gala last Saturday, Feb. 28, but one of the biggest reasons to cheer was the recent agreement by the Rio Nuevo board to sell the downtown theatre to the nonprofit Rialto Theatre Foundation for $1.3 million.

It's a great deal for all involved. The Rio Nuevo board gets cash up front instead of a monthly lease payment from the theatre management, while the Rialto Theatre Foundation will no longer have to run all its plans past the Rio Nuevo Board for approval—and, perhaps more importantly, will no longer have to face threats of eviction whenever someone on the Rio Nuevo board gets a nutty idea that the theater ought to be sold off to some rich joker who wants to try his hand at concert management.

The sale tops a great year for the Rialto Executive Director Curtis McCrary and the rest of the indomitable crew that keep mixing it up backstage and behind the bar. And let's have a round of applause for the Rialto's board of directors, which includes some of the city's smartest and best-looking lawyers.

McCrary says the deal "means that our fate is entirely in our hands, and the community's, and will be determined by how well we achieve our mission to be a steward of this amazing property and to bring activity, excitement, community engagement, and perhaps most importantly, fun to our beloved city. To us, the challenges that that will entail are exciting rather than intimidating. We can't wait to take it as far as it will go."

If you think about it, it's really an ideal time to sign up for a Rialto Theatre Foundation membership and send them a check to help them raise the money they'll need to make sure the theater looks its best for its 100th birthday party in 2020. Find out more at rialtotheatre.com.

"Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel" airs Sunday at the special time of 9 a.m. on KGUN-9. This week's preview of the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books includes authors Margaret Regan and Elizabeth Evans.


More by Jim Nintzel


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