GOP turns up pressure on Dems in DHS funding fight

The Washington Examiner — With two weeks left before a funding deadline, House and Senate Republicans Thursday stepped up pressure on Democrats to stop filibustering a $40 billion Homeland Security funding measure. But Democrats aren’t budging.

In a show of party unity, Republicans from the House and Senate held a joint news conference to criticize Democratic opposition to the measure.

“For the past two weeks, Senate Democrats have refused to allow us to even get on the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said. “Now we’ve wasted two weeks and the clock is ticking.”

But Democrats have been adamant in maintaining their opposition to the bill. Funding for DHS will run out Feb. 27 unless Congress appropriates additional spending.

The House-passed measure has been stalled in the Senate since Feb. 3, with Democrats blocking it because they oppose provisions in the bill that would defund President Obama’s executive actions that protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said lawmakers in his party will only agree to pass the bill if the GOP strips out the immigration provisions. One Republican, Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, also voted to block the GOP bill and Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has called for the Senate to take up a DHS measure without the language blocking Obama’s executive actions.

“There is an easy way out of this unnecessary drama,” Reid said Thursday. “Senator McConnell should heed the calls from Republicans and Democrats to take up the clean Homeland Security funding bill, pass it and move on.”

Both chambers are preparing to leave town for the week-long President’s Day recess by Friday. When they return Feb. 23 they’ll have just a few days to come up with a deal before a stopgap DHS funding measure runs out.

Republicans have pledged not to let funding run out at the department, which oversees a wide array of critical national security programs, including airport screening, the protection of federal buildings and customs and border enforcement.

But the GOP has refused to say what its next steps will be in the likely event that Democrats continue to block the bill.

Republican aides said passing another short-term measure to keep the department running is likely if no broader deal is reached, but lawmakers won’t officially show their hand.

Reporters asked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, what would happen at the end of the month if Democrats in the Senate continue to filibuster the GOP bill and whether he would allow the department to run out of money.

“The House has passed its bill,” Boehner said. “We’ve funded the Department of Homeland Security. And we’ve stopped the president with regard to his executive actions. It’s time for Senate Democrats to get into the game, get on the bill. If they don’t like what we’ve done, then they can amend it. Simple as that.”

Republicans, who control both chambers, have in recent days appeared to be at odds with each other over which side should make the next move. The Senate GOP on Tuesday attempted to hand the matter back to the House, but House leaders say they’ve done their job by passing the bill and sending it to the Senate.

On Thursday, the GOP in both chambers appeared to be realigned in pressuring the Democrats, particularly seven Democratic senators who said they opposed Obama’s immigration directives while campaigning for reelection, but who voted to block the DHS funding bill.

“They cannot have it both ways,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said. “All of us in the House and Senate are here, united, telling Senate Democrats do not shut down the Department of Homeland Security.”