The Senate on Wednesday moved forward with a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security even as the bill’s future in the House of Representatives remains uncertain.
Senate Democrats, who had previously filibustered the budget legislation because it included add-ons to curtail the president’s executive actions on immigration, joined with Republicans to advance the bill. The measure, which needed 60 votes to advance, passed 98-2.
That came after both sides cut a deal to send a “clean” version of the DHS bill – without the immigration add-ons – to the House.
Senate leaders hope to get to a final vote on the legislation as soon as Thursday.
At least one senator who could have forced an extended debate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, now says that he will not slow-walk the bill.
“Nothing is to be gained by a delay of 12 hours or 24 hours or 36 hours,” he said, adding that GOP leadership used a "fatally flawed" strategy that compromised the party's leverage long ago.
It’s still not clear how the House will react to the upper chamber’s move.
On Wednesday, Boehner would only say that the House is in a “wait and see mode” while the Senate does its work.
Boehner’s comments came after meeting behind closed doors with House Republicans, who are still divided about how to address the impasse. Some favor making sure that DHS does not have a funding lapse at a time of well-publicized terrorist threats against the United States, while a vocal bloc of conservatives contend that the president’s actions on immigration amount to a constitutional crisis and must be stopped at all costs.
Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican from Alabama, said that the GOP must fight against Obama's immigration orders.
"My position is ,and I think there are a substantial number of Republicans in the House of Representatives who agree, [is] that the United States constitution comes first and we are not going to abdicate our responsibility, our oath of office for some kind of convenience that in turn is going to undermine national security," he said.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an exclusive interview with NBC News that putting the agency's funding in jeopardy is "absurd."
But he said he hopes the department will be fully funded in time.
"I remain optimistic because I have to be optimistic," he said. "So I remain optimistic."
To pass the "clean" DHS budget legislation, Boehner would have to defy the conservative wing of his party to ensure its passage and build a majority vote with the help of Democrats. But in his comments on Wednesday, he would only say that the Senate must act first.
Also complicating the issue were reports Wednesday morning that Boehner and McConnell have not personally spoken in two weeks.
Asked by NBC News about why they have not held talks, Boehner replied only that their staffs have been in communication.
- Frank Thorp, Alex Moe, Luke Russert and Carrie Dann