Republicans certainly won a legal reprieve when a federal judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration from implementing much of the president's unilateral immigration actions on Monday night. The decision might also give the GOP a political break as well.
For the last few weeks, Republican leaders in the House and Senate have been paralyzed in their effort to fund the Department of Homeland Security while simultaneously reversing President Obama's move to shield millions from deportation. A House-passed bill is stalled in the Senate, and the department will run out of money on February 27 without congressional action.
Yet the injunction issued shortly after midnight Tuesday could offer Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a way out of the jam—if they decide to take it. With the president's policy now in legal limbo, the GOP could strip out the immigration provisions from the DHS funding bill and defer to the courts, a move that would allow the party leadership to save face while preserving a legislative fight for the future.
So far, however, that's not the path Boehner and McConnell are taking. In nearly identical statements issued after Judge Andrew Hanen's ruling, they each said the decision should prompt Senate Democrats to drop their filibuster of the House bill. That isn't likely to happen either, and for the moment, the impasse continues. One reason why Boehner and McConnell aren't blinking—other than the enormous pressure they are under from conservatives—is that Judge Hanen's injunction against the immigration policy might only last a few days. The Justice Department is expected immediately to appeal the decision to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and ask that the administration be allowed to proceed with its deferred action program while the case is under review. So it's still unclear whether the new policy will be in effect when Congress returns to Washington to try to avert a partial DHS shutdown next week.