Still stuck in gridlock

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., accompanied by, from left, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill. and Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, telling reporters they want Republicans to support a "clean bill" to fund the Homeland Security Department as that agency's budget expires later this week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Washington gridlock endures.

The latest example is the ongoing impasse over an appropriations bill that includes money for the Department of Homeland Security. It was passed last month by the Republican House but blocked from Senate debate — and thus, any chance of an up-or-down vote — by a Democratic filibuster threat.

Democrats fairly point out that the legislation includes amendments stopping funding for some of President Barack Obama’s immigration orders.

Republicans fairly counter that the president’s executive edicts on immigration exceed his proper authority.

Even a Democratic senator — West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — said Tuesday that the president has “overstepped his boundaries” on immigration, adding: “I will vote against those orders, basically, if we have to vote on it. I will be voting with the Republicans on that issue there.”

Meanwhile, though, if that spending bill isn’t approved and signed by the president before Saturday, DHS won’t get that funding. And while both parties’ intransigence would be to blame, the GOP would take the hardest public-relations hit.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., warned Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: “I’ve never seen more terrorist organizations ... that want to strike the homeland than I do today, and that’s a direct result of a failed foreign policy by President Obama. And the worst thing to do is having the Republican Party add gasoline to the fire by defunding the Department of Homeland Security.”

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., summed up his party’s dilemma Monday: “We’re in a really strange constitutional spot — that you can’t ignore a president who has exceeded his authority, but neither can you put the nation at risk.”

So Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has offered a concession of sorts by trying, as Politico put it, to “disentangle” the spending bill from the immigration issue.

As The Washington Post website reported Tuesday evening: “Under McConnell’s proposal, the Senate would vote first on the funding measure and then hold a separate vote on a bill to undo the immigration actions — which Obama announced in November — in an effort to assuage conservatives.”

That Republican retreat, however, didn’t satisfy Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who joined some party colleagues Tuesday in demanding assurances of House passage before accepting the compromise. They also sounded alarms of their own about the risks of not funding DHS.

Yet the Post reported that if DHS money is cut off “the immediate public impact is likely to be minimal” because “most security officers would stay on the job, unpaid, during a shutdown while tens of thousands of administrative staffers would be deemed ‘non­essential’ and furloughed until a funding deal was reached.”

Still, the failure of federal lawmakers from both sides to meet in the middle on this matter (so far) extends a pattern of stubborn futility on Capitol Hill —and in the White House.

It also feeds public disdain — and apathy — for the political process. For instance, former Folly Beach Mayor Richard Beck, in a guest column touting the American Party on today’s Commentary page, aptly pegs the result of polarization in the halls of power as “dysfunctional and ineffective government.”

As for DHS funding, if cooler GOP heads prevail, they can use a recent court ruling against the president’s immigration overreaching as a pretense for providing it for the rest of the year with no border-security strings attached. Failing that, money might still be appropriated in the nick of time this week with a short-term continuing resolution.

But as with the 2013 federal shutdown and the subsequent budget sequester, continuing resolutions simply continue the irresponsible trend of ducking hard calls by “kicking the can down the road.”

And until elected officials in Washington kick that bad habit, “dysfunctional and ineffective government” will persist.