By Rebecca Shabad
Lawmakers will begin returning to Washington on Monday with only five days left to prevent a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Legislation funding the agency is at an impasse over provisions demanded by House Republicans that would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that shield millions from deportation.
recess, both sides dug in, with many Republicans arguing that there is no reason for their party to bend now that a federal court has ruled in their favor by blocking Obama’s most recent actions.
The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday evening for the fourth time on a motion to open debate on the House-passed DHS funding bill.
The motion will certainly fail, leaving a decision on what comes next to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
McConnell has publicly said that the House-approved bill cannot be passed by the Senate, but Boehner has shown no interest in moving away from legislation reversing Obama’s executive actions.
“The House passed a bill weeks ago to fund the Department of Homeland Security. Now, Senate Democrats need to stop filibustering to block debate on that bill,” Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman Michael Steel told The Hill late last week.
As a result, Senate Republicans are considering a strategy in which the immigration riders would be separated from the DHS funding bill, but it’s unclear whether conservatives would back that plan.
Boehner could lay out his next play when the House GOP conference meets on Wednesday morning, which would leave him just 72 hours to prevent a shutdown.
One option being floated is a short-term spending bill known as a continuing resolution (CR), but it is not clear whether this would pass muster.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has been lobbying Republicans and Democrats on the agency’s need for new funding, which he says would bring the kind of stability that a CR cannot provide.
“When you’re on a continuing resolution, it is a little like trying to drive cross-country with no more than five gallons of gas at a time, and you don’t know when the next gas station is,” Johnson said on Fox News last week. “You can’t plan except days and weeks at a time.”
Over the weekend, Johnson emphasized that a new threat by terrorist group al-Shabaab to attack shopping malls in the U.S. and United Kingdom demonstrates why the DHS needs a new budget.
“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund Homeland Security in these challenging times,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Centrist Republicans have openly worried that their party could take a significant political hit by shutting down the DHS, while more conservative members have downplayed that threat. The Republican brand was badly damaged by the 16-day government shutdown in 2013, though the party had recovered by the 2014 midterm elections.
After last week’s court ruling, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued it could be best for the GOP to let the fight play out in the courts, where he said Republicans are winning.
“”We now have an exit sign,” he said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And that is the federal court decision saying that the president’s actions unilaterally are unconstitutional. And I think we’ve got a great argument to hand to the Supreme Court, where it will go.”
Other GOP senators, including Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), echoed McCain’s comment on the Sunday morning political talk shows about courts handling the constitutionality of Obama’s actions.
“I hope Republicans will come together and back the court case, file a friend of the court brief with the court and fund DHS. I am willing and ready to pass a DHS funding bill and let this play out in court,” Graham said on ABC News’s “This Week.”
Republican Tom Ridge, who served as the first secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, said Sunday on CNN that the GOP should send Obama a clean spending bill. Instead, the judicial branch can handle immigration, and Republicans can send immigration reform bills to the White House, Ridge added.
Johnson has warned a DHS shutdown would trigger the furlough of 30,000 employees and force 80 percent of the department’s workforce to come to work without pay.
Polls have indicated that voters would largely hold the GOP responsible for the DHS shuttering, just as Republicans were blamed in 2013.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) recently said a shutdown would reflect poorly on the GOP.
“It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable. When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible.”