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Editorial: GOP shoots own foot in shutdown standoff

The Detroit News

By now, congressional Republicans should know that in a shutdown government showdown with the president, they lose. Every time. And yet purist members of the House persist in pursuing a strategy that ultimately weakens their leverage and lowers their standing in the eyes of the public.

It should stop now. They will not win the standoff with President Barack Obama over immigration funding, just as they didn’t win previous budget stare downs.

The GOP leadership understands this, having learned the hard way. But the tea party wing of the party is still determined to pound its head against the wall, its members arguing that voters sent them to Washington to thwart Obama’s agenda.

And they may be right. But they should have explained to their voters the impossibility of keeping both that promise and the government running.

For one thing, their opponent in this grudge match is less concerned than they are that failure to compromise will shut down the government. And for good reason. The president has learned a lesson, too, from the past battles: the blame for dysfunctional governing will always fall almost entirely on Congress.

Even the more reliably conservative members of the GOP caucus have got the message. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, one of Obama’s most vocal adversaries, expressed frustration with his tea party colleagues, saying the so-called principled conservatives are “absolutely irresponsible.”

King rightly questioned the wisdom of shutting down the Homeland Security Department at a time when the United States is under high alert of terrorist attacks.

Likewise, Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk added, “I would say that this battle should be the end of the strategy of attaching whatever you’re upset at the president about to a vital piece of government.”

Republicans are justified in their anger over the president’s overreach. His executive orders are eroding the powers of Congress and endowing the presidency with dictatorial authority never intended by the Founders.

But shutting down the government, or even pieces of it, is the wrong countering tactic. Taxpayers expect the government to work, and even when it works poorly they still get nervous when the lights go out.

In this case, Republicans should let the fight unfold in the court system. A federal judge in Texas has blocked implementation of Obama’s immigration plan until a challenge can be heard. For now, that’s a better battleground for checking the abuse of presidential power.

Beyond that, the GOP can do what it promised last fall when it won control of the Senate and strengthened its majority in the House: Prove it can govern.

Rather than pick unwinnable political fights, Republicans should focus on passing sensible, pro-growth legislation, as they did with the Keystone XL pipeline bill. Let the president take responsibility for killing bills that the American public supports.

Republicans know they are going to ultimately lose this funding fight. They should pass the Homeland Security budget and heed Kirk’s advice: End this destructive strategy.