During a news day held hostage by President Trump’s disastrous meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Republicans chose to announce that instead of pushing forward a vote on a measure to abolish ICE, they’ll instead be voting on a bill heralding the agency’s good work.
It’s all a political gambit for the Republicans, particularly House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to squash the left wing momentum to dismantle ICE.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) last week floated the idea of forcing Democrats to vote on a bill that would eliminate ICE, a proposal backed by the far-left but is unpopular with most voters. Republicans, the thinking went, would win either way: Democrats would either back the bill and watch Republicans use it against them in the midterms. Or a portion of Democrats would oppose it, depressing the liberal base.
But Ryan (R-Wis.) was concerned about a third option: that Democrats wouldn’t vote at all, or uniformly oppose it, making Republicans look silly. Last Friday, he told House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) he didn’t want to put the measure, sponsored by Progressive Caucus co-Chairman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), on the floor — even though McCarthy told reporters just hours before that House Republicans would do just that.
Then McCarthy announced that Republican leaders would instead vote Wednesday on a bill by Louisiana Congressman Clay Higgins—who you may remember as the crazy Islamophobic gun guy who also made a little film in the gas chambers at Auschwitz—“talking about all the things ICE has done saving the children, the human trafficking, the more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics.”
“I gave [Wisconsin Congressman Mark] Pocan an opportunity to vote on the bill … They don’t want to vote for their own bill,” McCarthy, who’s widely reported to be in a leadership struggle with Scalise to succeed Ryan, told Politico. The site reported last week that Pocan and the bill’s co-sponsors planned to vote against the measure when it came to a vote, saying they wouldn’t be part of a Republican “political stunt.”
The Republicans’ majority can get almost any piece of performative conservatism passed through the House, for the moment. But this vote still won’t get the attention it deserves, mostly because we’ll still be preoccupied by the new Red scare.