DHS Kinda/Sorta Still Funded, But Why?
So the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has slipped the hangman's noose, at least for a little while longer. Proving they really are the stupid party (just like 2016 presidential hopeful Gov. Bobby Jindal said it was), the GOP has somehow managed to turn a huge victory in the midterms and a court order against Barack Obama's immigration plan into something like a complete defeat.
DHS is wheezing along on some sort of one-week continuing resolution, meaning that Republicans will likely legislatively soil themselves again sometime in the coming few days. It's hard to remember that their opponents, the Democrats, are themselves major losers and headed by a guy who easily won re-election despite having awful approval ratings and not even being that good for laughs anymore.
As I wrote for The Daily Beast earlier this week, by focusing on the illegal immigration issue rather than the very existence of DHS, the GOP majority missed a great opportunity to show it is serous about reducing the size, scope, and spending of the federal government.
Created in 2002 in the mad crush of panic, paranoia, and patriotic pants-wetting after the 9/11 attacks, DHS has always been a stupid idea. Even at the time, creating a new cabinet-level department responsible for 22 different agencies and services was suspect. Exactly how was adding a new layer of bureaucracy supposed to make us safer (and that's leaving aside the question of just what the hell "homeland security" actually means)? DHS leaders answer to no fewer than 90 congressional committees and subcommittees that oversee the department's various functions. Good luck with all that.
But don't feel sorry for the shmoes running DHS. Over the last decade, the budget for DHS has doubled (to $54 billion in 2014) even as its reputation for general mismanagement, wasteful spending, and civil liberties abuses flourishes. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) routinely lists DHS on its "high risk" list of badly run outfits and surveys of federal workers have concluded "that DHS is the worst department to work for in the government," writes Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. He also notes, a "Washington Post investigation found that many DHS employees say they have 'a dysfunctional work environment' with 'abysmal morale.'" Somewhere, the Postmaster General is pumping his fist.
If there's one agency that defines the DHS for Americans, it's the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), one of the few new federal services created as DHS came into being. When TSA celebrated its 10th anniversary, two Republican congressmen issued a report blasting the agency for bloated spending and near-zero-efficiency at halting teorrorism. Virtually everyone agrees not just that TSA engages in what Bruce Schneier called "security theater," but that TSA is performing at the community theater level.
And yet, rather than taking the opportunity of a new congressional majority to, you know, follow through on decades of Goldwaterian rhetoric about cutting the government, today's Republicans find themselves boxed in after failing to deliver the necessary votes to work their will on a lame-duck president and a minority party led by such modern-day Machiavels as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
It's gonna be a fun two years, especially if your idea of fun is watching car crashes.
Related: "44 Ways to Say TSA"