Boehner leaves open possible vote on Dem-backed DHS bill

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2015 12:06 AM
Boehner leaves open possible vote on Dem-backed DHS bill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Speaker John Boehner left open the possibility Monday that the House might pass long-term funding for the Homeland Security Department without immigration provisions attached, as Republican options dwindled for avoiding a capitulation to the White House and Democrats.

Boehner declined to say over the weekend if he would permit a vote on the Senate-passed measure, and his spokesman similarly sidestepped the question Monday. Officials in both parties predict it would pass, and end the recurring threat of a partial agency shutdown.

Democrats said they believe the House eventually will vote on the stand-alone spending measure, which conservatives oppose and President Barack Obama is eager to sign. "It is long overdue for House Republicans to stop the obstruction of full funding for the Department of Homeland Security," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader.

The White House also urged a vote on the bill, which would provide funding for the department through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. It has been stripped of provisions to roll back administration directives shielding millions of immigrants from the threat of deportation.

Democrats got an assist from an unlikely source. The American Action Network, a political organization with links to the House GOP leadership, said it would spend more than $400,000 this week in advertising pressuring conservatives not to stand in the way of "critical security funding."

"That's the wrong message to send to our enemies," one ad said.

Across the Capitol, Senate Democrats did their part, formally rejecting a Republican bid to convene House-Senate negotiations on the issue.

The result was to send the long-term funding measure back to the House, where rules generally permit any lawmaker to seek a vote on it.

It was unclear when that might happen, but with the agency headed for a partial shutdown at midnight Friday, time was growing short.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said he would try to amend House rules to block Democrats from using a parliamentary maneuver that could allow the bill to come to the House floor without action by Boehner or House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Passage of the stand-alone spending bill would seal the failure of a Republican strategy designed to make Homeland Security funding contingent on concessions from Obama. The president has issued a pair of directives since 2012 that lifted the threat of deportation from millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, steps that Republicans say exceeded his constitutional authority.

The Homeland Security Department, which has major anti-terrorism duties, is also responsible for border control.

A funding bill for the agency has produced partisan gridlock in the first several weeks of the new Congress, even though Republicans gained control of the Senate last fall and won more seats in the House than at any time in 70 years.

Democratic unity blocked passage in the Senate of House-passed legislation with the immigration provisions. By late last week, a split in House GOP ranks brought the department to the brink of a partial shutdown. That was averted when Congress approved a one-week funding bill that Obama signed into law only moments before a midnight Friday deadline.

The public recriminations bordered on ferocious. Lawmakers aligned with the leadership complained about tea party-backed conservatives who refused to vote even for a three-week bill that was designed to provide a face-saving way out of the struggle.

Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said his party's leadership was in a position of trying to "placate a small group of phony conservative members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama's lawlessness."

He added they are "seemingly unaware that they can't advance conservatism by playing fantasy football with their voting cards."

Boehner, interviewed over the weekend on CBS' "Face the Nation," was less acerbic, but critical nonetheless.

Asked if his GOP critics had a plan to force Obama to sign legislation they wanted, he replied, "Not that I know of."

Despite claims by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and others in her party, Boehner denied pledging last week to permit a vote on a full-year funding bill without immigration provisions in exchange for Democratic votes on the one-week measure that avoided a partial shutdown.

Instead, he said in the CBS interview he had promised her he would follow the "regular order" in the House, which generally means following the rules as legislation is debated. In this case, he said if Senate Democrats blocked GOP attempts to open negotiations on the issue, the stand-alone bill "may be coming back to the House."

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Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.