POLITICS

Senate Conservatives Say They Won't Hold Up DHS Funding

02/26/2015 03:49 pm ET
Bloomberg via Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- Another potential roadblock to the Senate quickly passing funding for the Department of Homeland Security was cleared Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), one of the most adamant opponents of President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, indicated he is not planning to hold up a vote on a DHS bill that doesn't include measures to end the president's policies, even though he opposes the plan.

"I think it's appropriate to move forward with a bill," he told reporters. "The ideas about how the process will go forward seem to be firmed up. I'm not happy with them, but I'm not interested in delay merely for the sake of delay."

Funding for DHS is set to run out at the end of the day Friday, and the Senate is aiming to vote before then on a "clean" bill -- without measures restricting Obama's immigration actions -- that would then be sent to the House.

Under the upper chamber's rules, a senator would be able to delay that vote until after the Friday deadline if he or she wanted to. But the two biggest Senate critics of Obama's actions appear to have conceded defeat. The Alabama senator left some wiggle room, saying he still would like to see what kind of unanimous consent agreement comes about, but said he isn't looking to cause "unnecessary delays in this process." Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told reporters on Wednesday that "nothing is to be gained by a delay of 12 hours or 24 hours or 36 hours," indicating he won't slow the process either.

Cruz voted Wednesday in favor of moving forward to the bill, while Sessions joined Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) in opposing it. Sessions told reporters he is not aware of anyone else planning to hold up the bill.

Lest it appear he had softened his view on a clean DHS bill, Sessions took to the Senate floor soon after talking to reporters to say Congress should not fund an "explosive constitutional violation" like Obama's actions. He said he would vote against a clean bill and urge his colleagues to do the same.

Republicans leaving a closed-door meeting were optimistic that there would be enough votes to pass a clean funding bill by the end of Friday, so long as Democrats stuck to an agreement reached on Wednesday. Under the deal, the Senate would first vote on a bill to keep operations running at DHS and then consider a separate measure sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) that would block Obama's executive actions on deportation relief and work authorization for undocumented immigrants.

"As long as there's an opportunity to vote on my bill, I think there are enough votes in the Senate," Collins said.

While it's her hope to get a straight up-or-down vote on her bill, Collins said the exact process remains unclear. She does, however, expect a cloture vote on her bill as part of a series of votes that could begin as early as Thursday evening.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the Senate may also vote on a short-term continuing resolution as a contingency plan. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has declined to say whether he would bring a clean DHS bill up for a vote, and a short-term CR would provide at least one vehicle to prevent the agency from shutting down.

During a press conference Thursday, Boehner refused to answer multiple questions on what he would do if the Senate advanced a clean funding bill. House Republicans are scheduled to meet Thursday evening to discuss their next steps.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) told reporters he hopes the House will pass a clean DHS bill, even if Boehner needs to rely on Democratic votes. He has been urging his fellow Republican senators to support the legislation.

"As a governing party, we've got to fund DHS and say to the House, 'Here's a straw so you can suck it up,'" Kirk said.

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