Monday, 23 Feb 2015 09:30 PM
WASHINGTON — Days away from a Homeland Security Department shutdown, Senate Republicans sought a way out Monday by breaking contested immigration measures off the agency’s funding bill and offering them for a stand-alone vote.
It was not clear whether the gambit by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would succeed ahead of Friday’s midnight deadline to fund the department or see it shut down. It was far from certain whether it would win any Democratic support, and House conservatives remain firmly opposed to any funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that does not also overturn President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
But with Senate Democrats united against a House-passed bill that funds the agency while blocking Obama on immigration, McConnell said it was time for another approach.
“The new bill I described offers another option we can turn to. It’s another way to get the Senate unstuck from a Democrat filibuster and move the debate forward,” McConnell said on the Senate floor after a vote to advance the House-passed bill failed 47-46, short of the 60 votes needed. Three previous attempts earlier in the month had yielded similar results.
“This is our colleagues’ chance to do exactly what they led their constituents to believe they’d do: defend the rule of law, without more excuses,” McConnell said in a jab at the handful of Senate Democrats who’ve voiced opposition to Obama’s executive actions offering work permits and deportation deferrals for millions in the country illegally.
A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, immediately welcomed McConnell’s move, though without predicting its chances of success in the House.
“This vote will highlight the irresponsible hypocrisy of any Senate Democrat who claims to oppose President Obama’s executive overreach on immigration, but refuses to vote to stop it,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.