POLITICS

Senate Passes DHS Funding As House GOP Kicks Can Down The Road

02/27/2015 11:54 am ET | Updated Feb 27, 2015

WASHINGTON -- The Senate approved funding for the Department of Homeland Security on Friday morning, less than 24 hours before a shutdown.

But the shutdown has not been averted quite yet. At the same time as the Senate approved its bill, House Republicans proceeded with a bill that would fund DHS for three weeks, so they can continue to push the Senate to cooperate with their efforts to gut President Barack Obama's immigration policies as part of a longer-term bill for the department. The Senate bill, which passed 68 to 31, does not have measures related to immigration.

Some members of Congress -- including Republicans -- said the three-week continuing resolution would be a punt, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's dead on arrival if it’s the only way to avoid a shutdown. A procedural vote passed Friday morning that will allow the continuing resolution to move forward.

House GOP leadership sources said Friday they were confident they had enough Republican votes to pass a three-week DHS funding extension, and expected the Senate to roll over and agree to the stopgap measure. Wavering members were convinced to back the vote, one said, by the growing realization that House Republicans would shoulder the full blame for the shutdown.

The three-week continuing resolution would likely pass the Senate. Sen. John Thune (R-N.D.) told reporters they would be willing to support a short-term bill if that was the only alternative, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the third-ranking Democrat, said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Friday that Democrats would back the measure.

"If that's the only choice we're given, as it looks like now, we'll support it, but very reluctantly," he confirmed to reporters at a press conference.

The issue of going to conference on the DHS funding bill is more fraught. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said his caucus will not allow for a conference on the DHS bill, which House Republicans are seeking to compromise on funding the department while also restricting Obama's immigration measures. The immigration order, Democrats say, is not up for discussion.

"This is really amateur hour to the nth degree," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters on Capitol Hill on Friday.

Moments earlier, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) huddled on the House floor with moderate Republicans, sketching out the way forward. There had been some confusion over the order of the votes, with the rank-and-file having been told previously they could vote for the funding before voting to go to conference, but the votes will now take place in reverse order. The GOP moderates want to oppose the conference bill but approve the funding, while many tea party Republicans want to reject the funding if the conference bill is not also included. House Democrats have pledged not to assist Republicans in their stopgap effort, meaning Boehner must bridge the divide in his own conference.

The Senate also voted on whether to move forward with a measure from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to halt Obama's 2014 executive actions on immigration, which Democrats agreed not to block in the future as long as DHS had been fully funded first. The motion failed to get the 60 votes it needed to go ahead, with a tally of 57-42.

Collins' bill would have stopped two policies that have been temporarily halted in the courts: the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents program and an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The programs are aimed at allowing parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents or undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the U.S. with three years' work authorization.

House Republicans voted as part of a DHS funding bill last month to kill not only those programs, but also to end DACA entirely and restrict other Obama administration immigration programs. Conservatives in the lower chamber who oppose any clean funding measure were dismayed that they were staring down the barrel of yet another capitulation on the part of Republican leaders.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), one of the most vocal critics of immigration reform, blamed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for giving up the GOP's leverage by offering to fund DHS with no strings attached.

"I would have liked to see Mitch McConnell fight a lot harder," King said. "He tipped over his king in a surprise move. He didn't make any moves for a long time, he waited until they looked at the calendar and strategically decided to jam the House."

UPDATE: 1:50 p.m. -- White House press secretary Josh Earnest said later Friday that although Obama would prefer a full-year DHS funding bill, he would approve a three-week continuing resolution.

"If the president is faced with the choice between a short-term extension and shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, he will sign the short-term extension," Earnest said in a press briefing.

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