Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Congress remains deadlocked over funding for the Department of Homeland Security as a Friday deadline to prevent a partial shutdown of the agency looms.
There's movement today in the Senate to try to find a way out of the impasse, according to Talking Points Memo:
On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Democrats would filibuster a "clean" funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security until Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) committed to bringing it up in the House. Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) offered the plan as a way to break the logjam.
But on Wednesday, after Boehner refused to budge, Reid reversed course and endorsed a clean DHS bill. The aim is to put the heat on Boehner, who is facing immense pressure from the right to hold firm against President Barack Obama's immigration actions, and take away his ability to dodge the issue by saying it's the Senate's turn to act before the House decides what to do next.
"Senator McConnell has agreed to give us a vote on [clean DHS funding]. We're glad to see that that's happened, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure it passes by an overwhelming vote," Reid told reporters after meeting with Senate Democrats. "I think virtually every Democrat will vote for that."
The deadlock stems from the decision of House Republicans to tie a freeze of both the DACA program for DREAM Act kids and the Obama administration’s extended deferred deportation program to the funding of the agency. Among Southern Arizona members of the congressional delegation, Republican Martha McSally voted for the bill, while Democrats Ann Kirkpatrick and Raul Grijalva voted against it.
The DHS budget extension stalled in the Senate after Democrats blocked the legislation.
McSally won't say whether she would support a clean funding bill. McSally spokesman Patrick Ptak told the Weekly today that the office is "monitoring closely to see how the Senate will act since the House has passed a DHS funding bill and will keep you updated."
But in a new USA Today op-ed, McSally gives the impression that she now believes the issues of funding Homeland Security and the president’s executive actions should be considered separately:
Most Americans agree the president overreached with his executive actions on immigration, and, for once, all three branches of government actually seem to agree. Congress, the courts and even the president himself (22 times) say that he did not have the authority to take such actions.
Now that he has defied even his own logic, the president's actions should be reversed, but not by withholding funding from the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our country safe. The president overstepped his bounds by taking on the policy-making role of Congress, so the best action Congress can take is to do its job. That means securing our border and revamping our legal immigration system so it aligns with our economic needs.
McSally's GOP colleagues in the House didn't appear to be prepared to blink earlier today, according to The Hill.
Arizona's Republican senators have been forthright in saying that they believe tying DHS funding to overturning the executive actions was the wrong approach.
Sen. John McCain told “Meet the Press” that the work of the Department of Homeland Security was “too serious” to be tied up with the politics of the immigration battle. And Sen. Jeff Flake said on the Senate floor that blocking the executive actions via a spending bill “is not a good move in my view.”
“I believe that rather than poke the president in the eye, we ought to put legislation on his desk,” Flake added.
The political problem McSally and her fellow House Republicans face is this: Some GOP conservatives oppose decoupling the issues because they believe it's the only way to block Obama's executive actions on immigration. They want to see DHS shut down because they believe it will put pressure on the White House. As The Hill reports:
The DHS will shut down on Saturday without a funding bill, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he’s ready to allow the Senate to vote on a “clean” funding bill with no immigration provisions.
Boehner has made no such commitment, however, and his party appears split on the issue.
While Republican leaders fear the GOP will be blamed for a shutdown, many rank-and-file members are determined not to support funding for the department unless they are also voting to defund or overturn Obama’s actions.