POLITICS

John Boehner Shrugs On Possible DHS Shutdown: 'I'm Waiting For The Senate'

02/25/2015 10:51 am ET | Updated Feb 25, 2015

WASHINGTON -- With less than 48 hours left to avert a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signaled Wednesday that he's got no plan for breaking the impasse and is leaving it up the Senate to figure it out.

"I'm waiting for the Senate to act," Boehner told reporters after a meeting with House Republicans. "The House has done its job to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and to stop the president's overreach on immigration. We're waiting for the Senate to do their job."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a two-part offer on Tuesday aimed at moving DHS funding forward in the upper chamber. McConnell said he was willing to put forward a "clean" spending bill -- and not attach the funding to a measure rejecting President Barack Obama's executive actions allowing deportation relief and work authorization -- and then hold a separate vote focused on the president's actions.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said soon after that Democrats would first need to see that Boehner was on board.

On Wednesday, however, Boehner gave no indication that his caucus would support McConnell's offer.

"Until I can see what they're going to pass, no decisions have been made on the House side," he said.

Republicans are in a political bind on the question of DHS funding. Some fear that a department shutdown, which will happen if Congress cannot pass a bill by Friday, would hurt the GOP in the polls. But caving on the immigration issue would be politically fraught as well, particularly for Boehner, who has previously faced criticism from his more conservative members for making deals with Democrats.

Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) told reporters after Wednesday's meeting that the base "would be extremely angry" if House Republicans voted for a clean DHS bill, putting leadership in "very, very delicate territory."

"To cave at this point, on this bill, I think our leadership sees real danger in doing that," Fleming added, saying that he would not support a DHS funding bill without immigration measures.

But some Republicans see a way out that would allow them to vote for a clean DHS bill without appearing to flip-flop on Obama's executive actions. A judge issued a preliminary injunction last week that halted the government from moving forward with the executive actions Obama announced last year. The administration is seeking a ruling that would allow it to restart the policies. For now, though, since the programs aren't going ahead anyway, some GOP members have said it may no longer be as vital to tie the immigration fight to DHS funding.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who chairs the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said that after the court ruling, he would be willing to vote for a clean DHS funding bill.

"At least we can say that within the next 30 to 60 days we will find out whether the president is going to be successful in getting the injunction relieved, taken off, and I don't think he is," Carter told reporters.

It doesn't appear that the lines of communication have been especially open between the GOP leaders. Boehner said Wednesday that he hadn't talked to McConnell in at least two weeks, though he noted that staffs have been talking back and forth.

Obama has not budged on his immigration actions, or on his vow to veto any DHS funding bill that limited his deportation relief programs. He met with immigration advocates on Wednesday morning to discuss the policies, and will hold a town hall later in the day to tout his plans publicly.

"I can’t find anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to shut down the Department of Homeland Security, which means that congressional Republicans should simply do their job," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. "They should pass legislation that would fully fund the Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of this year."

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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