The annual Conservative Political Action Conference has always been a haven for would-be presidential candidates seeking the sanction of some of the Republican Party's most powerful populists. But it's also been a forum for the right to vent their anger at the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. The 2015 CPAC begins Thursday, two days before funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire.
It's still unclear whether Congress can reach a deal in time to avoid at least a temporary shut-down. Even though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have chosen to skip CPAC, they will hear very loudly the complaints of activists who believe that both men have shown their yellow belly to the purple and blue forces in Congress.
Boehner is on point. If he sends the signal, the House will vote on a Senate measure to fund the DHS fully, along with a separate symbolic vote to show disapproval with President Obama's immigration executive action, which the GOP calls "amnesty." As of this writing, the speaker has not indicated that he will give in to the pressure, instead preferring to gut it out for a few days, at least, letting House conservatives relish the win of a short-duration shut-down. Tactically, Boehner would allow pent-up frustration to ventilate, and then, when conservatives quieted down, reverse course and essentially hand Obama a delayed victory — for now.
Obama's executive action, which would affect nearly five million undocumented immigrants, is held up in court. If DHS gets its funding, Obama wouldn't be able to act until the courts decide what to do.
CPAC's timing couldn't be better in this sense. There's no way Boehner will stand up to House conservatives during CPAC, especially when many of their leading and loudest voices have a platform at the convention. CPAC has one small panel on immigration, but the news of the day will undoubtedly be the talk of the halls, if prior conventions are any indications.
The right's major media voices, like Breitbart.com, The Daily Caller, and RedState.org, will set up shop there all weekend, as will dozens of conservative talk radio hosts. They will decry McConnell's "clean" DHS funding bill and urge Boehner not to cave. GOP presidential candidates Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin, Gov. Scott Walker, and Gov. Bobby Jindal all have prime speaking slots. With the possible exception of Jeb, they won't be looking to play nice either.