Republicans in Congress would shoulder the blame for a shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security if they are unable to enact a new spending bill to keep the agency running, according to a new CNN/ORC poll. The survey finds 53% of Americans would blame the Republicans in Congress if the department must shut down, while 30% would blame President Barack Obama. Another 13% say both deserve the blame.
If a spending bill is not passed by Feb. 28, the agency’s funding will run out.
A majority says a shutdown at DHS, even if it’s just for a few days, would be a crisis or a major problem. Republicans are less likely to see a shutdown as a big problem, 46% say so compared with 66% among Democrats. Among all adults, slightly fewer see a DHS shutdown as a problem or crisis than said so in November when asked about a possible shutdown of the whole government, 55% now vs. 59% in that poll.
As in November, this shutdown threat has more to do with immigration policy than with budgetary concerns.
House Republicans have been sparring with their Senate counterparts over whether a bill to continue the agency’s funding should also reverse Obama’s executive actions on immigration, which shielded millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. The House has already passed a bill to fund DHS which includes a provision to undo Obama’s actions, but Senate Democrats have blocked attempts to bring the bill to a vote and some Senate Republicans have spoken out against dealing with both issues in one bill.
The impasse could threaten what little goodwill the new GOP-controlled Congress has gained with the public since their election last fall. The poll finds 21% approve of how Congress is handling its job, up from 13% before the election and the highest rating in CNN/ORC polling since January 2013.
But the issue at the center of the standoff, immigration, divides the country. The poll finds a near even split on how the U.S. government should handle illegal immigration. Overall, 49% say U.S. government should focus more on developing a plan to allow those here illegally who have jobs to become legal residents, while the same share says the focus should instead be on developing a plan to stop the flow of illegal immigration and deport those already here.
And Obama’s steps to allow some immigrants in the U.S. illegally to stay haven’t improved his approval ratings on the matter. Since the last shutdown threat, the public has soured on Obama’s handling of illegal immigration, with 59% disapproving in the new poll, up from 53% in November.
The survey, conducted February 12-15, included interviews with 1,027 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.