Action on a bill to avoid a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security has halted, just 18 days before the agency runs out of funding. And there was fresh evidence on Tuesday that Republican leaders on Capitol Hill have no clear strategy to get it moving again.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed “Democratic obstructionism” for blocking his three attempts to bring up a House-passed bill – that attached several controversial amendments to block the President’s executive action on immigration – and said it was up to the House to figure out the next step.
“I can just tell you I think it’s clearly stuck in the Senate. We can’t get on it, we can’t offer amendments to it. And the next step is obviously up to the House,” McConnell said Tuesday.
Just last Thursday, though, it was House Speaker John Boehner who told reporters the House had done its job and it was up to the Senate to pass something. Boehner admitted then he didn’t know what McConnell’s plan was for getting a bill passed.
House Republicans insisted that any spending bill for DHS also include those measures that bar funding that could be used to implement President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Senate Democrats opposed those amendments and said they would only vote for a so-called “clean” bill that would ensure the department’s operations would continue.
“The Republican majority is twiddling its thumbs as it gets closer and closer to shutting down DHS,” Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader, told reporters on Tuesday.
After McConnell lobbed the ball back in the speaker’s court, Boehner’s spokesman blamed Democrats for the impasse.
“The House has passed a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and block the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration,” said Michael Steel, a Boehner spokesman. “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 what would break their filibuster, there’s little point in additional House action.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said it’s time to pressure the seven Senate Democrats who expressed concerns with the President’s executive orders to change their votes.
“Somebody should go to the seven Democrats and say why are you willing to eliminate funding for DHS, why are you backing up on your campaign promises?” Graham said.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, repeatedly replied, “I don’t know” to reporters’ questions about how the impasse would be broken.
In the meantime, the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, vowed a resolution would be reached and DHS will not shut down.
“It’s all going to be okay. The Department of Homeland Security is going to be fine,” Cornyn said without providing any details. “I’m confident.”
On Thursday, Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, suggested Congress might rely on a short-term “continuing resolution” to find DHS at its current levels as leaders continued their hunt for a broader deal.
“That’s always a possibility around here,’ he said.
Both the House and Senate are scheduled to leave on Friday for a one week recess, so that leaves just four days left when the two chambers will be in session to pass something before the agency is forced to furlough some of its workers.