Sen. Lindsay Graham warned his GOP colleagues against connecting funding for the Department of Homeland Security with an effort to undermine President Barack Obama’s immigration overhaul.
“To my Republican colleagues, we’re playing with fire here. We need a robust homeland security budget now,” the South Carolina Republican said in an interview Monday on CNN’s “The Situation Room.”
Graham’s comment was part of his broader push to restore funding for the Pentagon as well as several agencies he ticked off by name – the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“All of the intelligence eyes and ears are beginning to be deaf and blind because of sequestration,” he said.
His comments come the day Obama’s White House threatened to veto a House Republican measure aimed at undermining the President’s executive overhaul of immigration rules.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama has repeatedly warned the GOP not to “muck around with that legislation.”
“We’ve made clear, dating back to last fall, that the President would oppose any legislative effort to undermine the executive actions that he took to add greater accountability to our immigration system,” he said during his daily press briefing.
Asked whether that meant he’d veto the bill, Earnest said: “Yes.”
House Republicans unveiled a bill last week that funds the Homeland Security Department through September – with all other federal agencies – while also rolling back the executive action Obama took last year to shield the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens from deportation.
It also takes aim at an earlier Obama move that protected young undocumented immigrants – those who would have been included in the “Dream Act” – from deportation.
That bill, though, could face hurdles in the Senate, where it’s unlikely to win support from Democrats – complicating its path to the 60 votes needed to clear procedural hurdles.
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the GOP will in “a targeted way to try to address and defund” what he called Obama’s “unconstitutional” executive action.
“But we’re not going to take any chances with the homeland,” Cornyn said.
The GOP had insisted in a December budget deal that funding for the Department of Homeland Security end on Feb. 27 – rather than running through much of the rest of the year, as the rest of the funding measure did.
Since the Paris attacks, GOP leaders have rushed to say they won’t put the entire department at risk. Cornyn did insist, though, that the GOP will still force a confrontation with Obama over immigration.
“His unconstitutional executive action is something that we are not going to take lying down. It’s something I think we are obligated to respond to,” Cornyn said.