House Republicans are floating a plan to delay a possible shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security by voting on a short-term measure to keep the agency funded and continue their immigration fight into next month.
GOP House members met behind closed doors late Thursday to plot a plan forward, even as the Senate prepared to approve a “clean” DHS bill not tied to measures that would halt the president’s executive actions on immigration.
Without some action to fund DHS, the agency will run out of money at midnight on Friday.
Conservatives decry the Senate’s plan as a surrender to the White House, but Republicans in the House might support a short-term funding measure to avoid accusations of causing a DHS shutdown at a time of increased anxiety about terror threats against the United States.
"Hopefully tomorrow we will pass a three-week [stopgap bill] to avert a shutdown," said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers. "And then we will hope that the Senate will go to conference with us and we will have an old fashioned conference."
A "conference" would merge the House and Senate bills into one compromise product -- something Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid says is a non-starter with his party.
A House Democratic leadership aide said that there's "little to no support" for the short-term plan among Democratic members, saying that the minority party does not plan to "bail Speaker Boehner out" and offer sufficient votes to get the measure across the finish line.
The proposal has resulted in heated rhetoric between both parties.
On the House floor late Thursday night, top Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland could be heard calling House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California a "coward" as McCarthy outlined the voting timeline.
One development giving momentum to the Republicans’ idea of a weeks-long punt is the ongoing legal battle over Obama’s moves to give millions of undocumented immigrants deportation relief. Earlier this month, a Texas judge ordered a temporary injunction preventing the government from implementing that plan; a Department of Justice appeal is pending.
The Senate appears ready to pass the “clean” bill as early as Friday after key opponents declined to slow-walk consideration of the legislation. Votes on the measure are slated for Friday morning.
"I think it's appropriate to move forward on the bill," Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told reporters after a Senate Republican conference lunch, "But I'm not interested in delay merely for the sake of delay."
Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) said this most recent fight should be the last time Republicans use a key funding bill to attempt to fight Obama's policies.
"I would say this battle should be the end of the strategy of attaching whatever you're upset about the president to a vital piece of government," Kirk told reporters. "We really, as a governing party, we got to fund DHS, and say to the House, 'Here's a straw so you can suck it up.'
Even if both chambers pass a short-term funding bill, the fight over the president’s immigration actions – which some Republicans describe as a constitutional crisis – is sure to continue as immigration opponents seek an advantage.
But other Republicans are incredulous at the idea of a lapse in funding for DHS at a time of increased terror threats against the United States.
"It shows how off the rail the Republican Party is," Republican Rep. Peter King told MSNBC. "We're allowing Nancy Pelosi to be the spokeswoman for homeland security. That should be our issue. We're the ones who are the party of homeland security."
- Luke Russert, Alex Moe, Frank Thorp and Carrie Dann