Senate Poised to Pass DHS Funding

Erin Kelly          USA Today

WASHINGTON — The Senate appears poised to pass a homeland security spending bill before funding for the agency expires at midnight Friday.

A handful of conservative senators who object to the measure said Thursday they do not intend to use procedural moves to delay the Senate vote past the funding deadline.

The Senate is scheduled to vote Friday morning on its version of the bill.

Meanwhile, House Republicans may consider a three-week stopgap funding bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security from a partial shutdown, said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., following a meeting with the House GOP Conference at the Capitol late Thursday afternoon. A vote on that measure could come Friday, according to Issa.

The stopgap measure would buy more time for House Republicans to decide how to respond to the Senate’s bill. The bill angers some House conservatives because it deletes House-passed provisions to derail President Obama’s immigration programs.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would not say earlier Thursday whether he will ultimately try to pass the Senate bill through the House or reattach the immigration amendments. Those amendments sparked a filibuster by Senate Democrats and have drawn a veto threat from Obama.

“We’re waiting to see what the Senate can or can’t do,” the Ohio Republican said at a news conference Thursday. “Then we’ll make decisions about how we’re going to proceed.”

The Senate this week reached a bipartisan compromise on DHS funding, but Boehner and other House leaders have not endorsed that plan so far.

Senators voted 98-2 on Wednesday to move forward on a “clean” DHS spending bill that is free of the immigration riders the House attached when it passed its funding bill for the agency last month.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offered the compromise after Senate Democrats blocked passage of the House bill four times because they oppose the immigration riders. Those riders would cut off funding to carry out Obama’s executive orders to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally in the USA.

A vote on a separate bill to defund Obama’s immigration actions will come after the DHS funding bill is passed, McConnell said.

A handful of conservatives who oppose separating the DHS funding bill from the immigration bill could have used procedural moves to delay a final Senate vote until Sunday — two days after the agency’s funding expires.

But Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said Thursday that they do not intend to delay the vote. They were the only two senators who voted against advancing the bill Wednesday.

“I don’t look to have any unnecessary delays in this process,” Sessions told reporters after a Republican lunch meeting.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said it is time for his GOP counterparts in the House to get the message and pass the DHS bill free of immigration provisions.

“We’ve got to fund DHS and say to the House: ‘Here’s a straw so you can suck it up,’ ” Kirk said Thursday.

If the House sends the bill back to the Senate with the immigration riders reattached, Democrats will object to creating a panel of negotiators to work out differences between the House and Senate bills, Reid said.

“We will not allow a conference to take place,” Reid told reporters Thursday. “It will not happen.”

Boehner dismissed any suggestion that he is in danger of losing his job as House speaker if he angers immigration hardliners in the House GOP caucus over the thorny immigration issue.

“No, heaven’s sake, no,” Boehner told reporters.

Some House conservatives see McConnell’s compromise as surrendering to the White House because it allows DHS to be funded without blocking Obama’s immigration actions.

But Boehner rejected Democrats’ contention that Republicans are at war with themselves over the issue.

“It is not a fight amongst Republicans,” Boehner said. “All Republicans agree that we want to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and we want to stop the president’s executive actions with regard to immigration.”

Boehner said he and McConnell get along well despite the difference in the way they are handling the DHS funding fight.

“We have two different institutions that don’t have the same body temperature every day and so we tend to try and work to narrow the differences,” Boehner said. “But sometimes there are differences. The House by nature and by design is a hell of a lot more rambunctious place than the Senate. Much more.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the “gamesmanship must end” before it is too late to keep DHS funding from expiring.

“It’s about time for them to grow up and pass a bill,” Pelosi said, referring to House Republicans.

Contributing: Susan Davis

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