POLITICS

Mitch McConnell: Next Move On DHS Funding Is 'Up To The House'

02/10/2015 03:28 pm ET | Updated Feb 10, 2015

WASHINGTON -- The Senate is "stuck" on funding for the Department of Homeland Security, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday, and it will be up to the House of Representatives to figure out the next step.

"I think it's clear we can't go forward in the Senate, unless you all have heard something I haven't," he told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. "So the next move obviously is up to the House."

The statement was partially one of fact -- the Senate voted three times on whether to move forward with a House-passed bill that would fund DHS and block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, which could give millions of undocumented immigrants work authorization and the ability to stay in the U.S. Each time, Senate Democrats blocked the move. Now, they seem no more likely to support the bill, and funding for DHS is set to run out on Feb. 27.

The message from Senate Republican leaders, essentially, is that they did their best, but just can't get the House's bill through the upper chamber.

But that's unlikely to sit well with Republicans in the House, who said last week that they have done their job and it is now up to the Senate.

That was still the message after McConnell's remarks on Tuesday, judging by a statement from House Speaker John Boehner's (R) spokesman, Michael Steel.

"The House has passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and block the President's unilateral executive action on immigration," he said in an email. "Now, the pressure is on Senate Democrats who claim to oppose the President's action, but are filibustering a bill to stop it. Until there is some signal from those Senate Democrats what would break their filibuster, there's little point in additional House action."

By the end of the month, Congress must pass either a bill to fund DHS through the year or a stopgap measure to avoid a shutdown -- which leaders on both sides say they want to avoid.

They just can't agree on how to do it. Republicans are intent on making sure the DHS funding bill stops Obama's immigration actions. But Democrats, including Obama, are intent on keeping immigration measures out of the bill.

The DHS funding bill passed by the House last month, which Obama immediately threatened to veto, would block several of the president's key immigration programs.

Most contentiously, the bill includes a provision to end the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to temporarily stay and work legally. More than 600,000 such young people, often called Dreamers, have already applied for that status, and would lose the DACA protections once they expire under the House-passed bill.

In addition, the legislation would stop a new policy, which Obama announced in November, that provides similar work authorization to legal permanent residents and undocumented parents of U.S. citizens.

Republicans say both policies go beyond Obama's authority and are unconstitutional. In addition to efforts to block the policies through legislation, the House GOP is also planning to take legal action.

While most Democrats support the policies, several in the Senate have expressed concern or disapproval about the president acting without congressional input. Although Republicans urged those skeptics to join them to move forward with the House's DHS funding bill, the Democrats remained united in voting against it last week.

Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they remain committed to a "clean" funding bill for DHS, one without immigration measures.

"The Republican majority is twiddling its thumbs as it gets closer and closer to shutting down DHS," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference.

But at the same time, Senate Democrats are also urging against the other option: a short-term continuing resolution that would keep DHS open but retain current funding levels. They note that a stopgap solution could simply lead to another shutdown in a few weeks or months. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said such a deal would be "very bad," and Schumer said it was "no plan at all," though neither ruled out a continuing resolution entirely.

Republicans have made clear that they believe the blame should be placed on Democrats in the event of a DHS shutdown.

"If there is a successful [terrorist] attack during a DHS shutdown -- we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans,'" Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said Tuesday, according to Politico.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has repeatedly asked Congress to pass a full-year funding bill rather than another continuing resolution. He said without the funding bill, DHS will be unable to carry out plans such as reforming the Secret Service and improving border security efforts.

"Border security is not free. The men and women of DHS need a partner in Congress to fund their efforts," Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday. "Time is running out. I urge Congress to act responsibly and pass a clean appropriations bill for this Department."

This story has been updated to include further detail.

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