GOP Blame Game Over Stalled Homeland Security Bill

GOP Blame Game Over Stalled Homeland Security Bill
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Republican leaders in the Senate and House are pointing fingers at each other, both saying it’s the other chamber that needs to make the next move in the fight to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

The House nearly a month ago passed a DHS funding bill that includes amendments halting President Obama’s executive action to delay deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants. The bill has faced a much tougher path in the Senate.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought up the legislation three times last week, and each time Democrats filibustered, saying they will accept nothing short of a “clean” DHS funding bill without immigration.

“We've had a week on it. We've had three cloture votes, all of which have not succeeded. It's clear we can't get on the bill, we can't offer amendments to the bill, and I think it would be pretty safe to say we're stuck because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” McConnell said Tuesday at a press conference.

“I think it's clear we can't go forward in the Senate unless you all have heard something I haven't. And so the next move, obviously, is up to the House,” he added.

Speaker John Boehner, however, stuck to the same position he held last week: the House has done its job, and it’s actually still up to the Senate.

“The House has passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and block the President's unilateral executive action on immigration,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in an email. “Now, the pressure is on Senate Democrats who claim to oppose the President's action, but are filibustering a bill to stop it. Until there is some signal from those Senate Democrats [on] what would break their filibuster, there's little point in additional House action.”

In his weekly press conference last Thursday, Boehner was asked what McConnell’s end game is on DHS funding and whether it was clear what the Senate leader was trying to achieve. Boehner shrugged, smiled and said no.

“He’s got a tough job over there. I’ve got a tough job over here. God bless him and good luck,” Boehner said with a wry smile. “The House fought this fight. We won this fight.”

Republicans in the Senate, however, don’t see a path forward that doesn’t start back in the House, where spending bills must originate. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the third- ranking Republican in the Senate, brushed off Boehner’s comments that the Senate should continue trying to pass the House bill.

“I think that’s an assumption that there are six Democrats that are going to come along, and probably in the current version of the bill that’s unlikely to happen,” Thune said.

Democrats in the Senate have maintained throughout this debate that they would not cave on any funding bill that attacked Obama’s immigration actions. Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said it’s time for Republicans in the House to end this particular fight on immigration.

“It should be clear to every House Republican what has been clear to the entire country for some time now: their extreme anti-immigrant riders are dead and cannot pass the Senate,” Hammill said in an emailed statement. “It’s time for the House to pass a clean DHS funding proposal and stop playing games with the safety of the American people.”

Homeland Security funding runs out on Feb. 27, a deadline set in the spending deal reached by Congress in December. With both the House and Senate in recess next week, however, there are only seven legislative days until the deadline.

Thune said it was possible a continuing resolution could be the next step, funding the department for a short time before rehashing this fight. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that a CR would be “very, very bad.”

Asked about the possibility of a continuing resolution, McConnell didn’t answer directly, instead repeating that the current funding bill is “stuck in the Senate.”

“We can't get on it, we can't offer amendments to it,” he said for the second time. “And the next step is obviously up to the House.”

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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