Congress voted itself a lifeline Friday: seven more days to find a way out of a Homeland Security Department shutdown. But for Republicans, another week-long DHS funding saga threatens to only magnify tensions between rank-and-file members and their leaders, and take the focus off a policy agenda the GOP had hoped to define itself by.
TSA agents may still be getting paid, but the short-term funding bill carries a political risk for the GOP. While Republican aides insist that the DHS funding woes are merely a sideshow and that both chambers of Congress will turn their focus to new matters next week—such as overriding the president's Keystone pipeline veto and hosting a joint session of Congress for a speech from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—a debate over DHS funding undoubtedly eats up valuable time on the congressional calendar and newspapers' front pages. Already, the House was forced to take an education bill off the floor Friday as the conference was still divided and the more pressing DHS shutdown loomed.
"Regular order takes a little more time," says Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who shrugs off suggestions that the Senate and House back-and-forth is dangerous for the party.
But when the confetti fell last November and Republicans won their majority, the expectation was that the Republican Party and its leaders would be hitting their stride by now. The party had a clear mandate: return to regular order while proving it could govern with policy proposals on everything from Obamacare replacements to tax reform that went beyond just blocking Democrats. Instead, Congress appears to still be clawing from crisis to crisis.