Obama Will Warn GOP Against Homeland Security Shutdown

The president plans to preview his budget proposal at Democratic retreat, call for end to sequestration.

US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on January 28, 2014 at the US Capitol in Washington. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
National Journal
Alex Brown
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Alex Brown
Jan. 29, 2015, 1 a.m.

PHIL­ADELPHIA — Pres­id­ent Obama will strike a de­fi­ant tone today at a gath­er­ing of House Demo­crats, call­ing on Con­gress to roll back se­quest­ra­tion cuts and jab­bing Re­pub­lic­ans for threat­en­ing fund­ing for the Home­land Se­cur­ity De­part­ment.

Obama plans use the party re­treat to pre­view his budget pro­pos­al, which will be re­leased Monday. While the plan has no chance of mak­ing its way through a GOP-con­trolled Con­gress, it’s a vehicle for Demo­crats to out­line clear policy pri­or­it­ies — which many lead­ers be­lieve the party failed to do dur­ing the 2014 midterms.

The White House jumped on a quote this week from Re­pub­lic­an Rep. Mario Diaz-Bal­art that it wouldn’t be “the end of the world” if DHS fund­ing lapsed. “[T]he pres­id­ent will join the Demo­crats in Con­gress in vehe­mently op­pos­ing that dan­ger­ous view and call­ing for a clean fund­ing bill to en­sure we are fund­ing our na­tion­al se­cur­ity pri­or­it­ies in the face of cy­ber­se­cur­ity and se­cur­ity threats abroad,” said an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial.

Obama wasn’t alone in chal­len­ging Re­pub­lic­ans to pony up the fund­ing. “Re­pub­lic­ans will­ing­ness to put their polit­ic­al se­cur­ity ahead of na­tion­al se­cur­ity is a dis­grace,” Rep. Ben Ray Lu­jan, the newly named head of the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, told re­port­ers at the House Demo­crats’ re­treat. “The Amer­ic­an people de­serve bet­ter.”

The White House has threatened to veto a GOP plan that ex­tends DHS fund­ing while re­vers­ing Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions to pro­tect il­leg­al im­mig­rants from de­port­a­tion. Re­pub­lic­ans have said they don’t want the de­part­ment to shut down, but they strongly be­lieve that Obama’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions are il­leg­al and should be blocked by Con­gress.

Mean­while, Obama will call for an end to se­quest­ra­tion, the auto­mat­ic and in­dis­crim­in­ate budget cuts that went in­to ef­fect in 2013, slash­ing ex­pendit­ures for al­most every fed­er­al agency. Obama “will pro­pose to end the across-the-board se­quester cuts that threaten our eco­nomy and our mil­it­ary,” said the White House of­fi­cial. “The Pres­id­ent be­lieves we should end the era of man­u­fac­tured crises and mind­less aus­ter­ity.”

Even be­fore its re­lease, Obama’s pro­pos­al drew praise from Demo­crats on the Hill. “Ar­bit­rary cuts through se­quest­ra­tion nev­er made sense, and House Demo­crats have con­sist­ently sup­por­ted re­pla­cing them with a smarter, more bal­anced ap­proach to long-term de­fi­cit re­duc­tion,” Budget Com­mit­tee rank­ing mem­ber Chris Van Hol­len said in a state­ment.

Demo­crats gathered here said their caucus needs to get bet­ter at draw­ing dis­tinc­tions with Re­pub­lic­ans, draw­ing policy con­trasts des­pite serving in the minor­ity. Rep. Steve Is­rael cited a middle-class tax cut pro­posed by Van Hol­len a few weeks ago as a step in the right dir­ec­tion, and party lead­ers will no doubt use Obama’s budget pri­or­it­ies to sim­il­ar ef­fect.

Is­rael, among oth­ers, said Demo­crats are eager to rally around Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress to guide the party’s goals for the year. “[Obama] set the table, and now we’ve got to dish out the meal le­gis­lat­ively,” he said. “That was the per­fect launch for a mes­sage that we can all gal­van­ize and mo­bil­ize around.”

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