Obama warns U.S. security funding lapse would hurt economy

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 23, 2015 11:47 AM

By Roberta Rampton and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security would mean more than 100,000 border patrol, port inspection and airport security agents would be temporarily left without paychecks.

"It will have a direct impact on your economy, and it will have a direct impact on America's national security because their hard work helps to keep us safe," Obama said in a speech to a meeting of state governors at the White House.

Homeland Security spending authority will expire at midnight on Friday unless Congress approves new funding. While essential security personnel would still report to work, there would be no money to pay them during the funding lapse.

A new $39.7 billion budget for the department is stalled in Congress over Republican-authored provisions that aim to block any spending on Obama's recent executive orders, which lift the threat of deportation from millions of undocumented immigrants.

Republicans who control the U.S. Senate will try for a fourth time to advance the measure later on Monday, but it is again expected to fall short of the needed 60 votes as Democrats reject it. Even if it were to pass, Obama has threatened to veto the measure unless immigration restrictions are stripped.

Senate and House aides declined to outline their next steps. Some moderate Republicans support removing the immigration provisions or passing a one- or two-month extension of last year's funding levels.

That would allow Homeland Security to continue paying essential personnel such as airport and border security agents while a court challenge to Obama's immigration orders plays out.

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson on Monday called for an end to the impasse but did not suggest a path forward.

"Responsible members of both parties must work together to find some way to fund DHS without further delay," he said in a statement.

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A senior Senate Democratic aide said the party would likely reluctantly accept a short-term funding extension.

The decision about what to do next is likely up to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, whose members want him to keep the immigration changes in any funding bill.

State governors who met with Obama said they want no interruption in Homeland Security funding, which would halt grants to states for anti-terrorism efforts.

"We want it funded," said Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican. "We also want immigration reform done

(Reporting by David Lawder and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Susan Heavey and Emily Stephenson)