WASHINGTON (AP) — A partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department looms as Senate Democrats say they are unwilling to consider Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s demands for negotiations on a spending bill that rolls back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies.
The Senate has scheduled a procedural vote for Monday, three days after Congress cleared a one-week extension for the department. Friday’s vote highlighted the divisions within the Republican Party and the limitations of their power even while they have full control of Congress, as 52 House conservatives defied their leadership and helped scuttle legislation that would have given the agency a three-week reprieve.
Spending for the department, which oversees the nation’s borders, is now set to expire this Friday — held hostage in a proxy battle over Obama’s recent executive actions sparing millions of immigrants in this country illegally from deportation.
If Congress doesn’t act before the deadline to fund Homeland Security for another year, the shutdown would mean almost 90 percent of the department’s workers who are considered essential would have to work without pay until the situation is resolved. The showdown is therefore unlikely to have an immediate impact on U.S. security beyond worsening morale.
House Republican leaders on Sunday challenged Democrats to begin negotiations on funding for Homeland Security and Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration. But they acknowledged that no common ground has been found with the Democrats.
“We want to get a conference with the Senate. Now, they’ve made clear that they don’t want to go to conference. But they’re going to have a vote. If they vote, in fact, not to get a conference, this bill may be coming back to the House,” Boehner said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
A spokesman for Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Sunday there will be no negotiations with the House over Homeland Security funding and immigration. Senate Democrats are expected to block any plans for formal talks in Monday night’s vote.
“Sen. Reid has been clear for days on the fact that there will be no conference,” said Adam Jentleson, Reid’s spokesman. He said House Republicans want a conference so they can load up a funding bill that would pass with “poison pill riders.”
A so-called clean bill, in this instance, is one that focuses solely on the funding and does not include the immigration provisions.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein also said she doesn’t envision Senate Democrats budging.
Even some Republicans said the party should simply surrender and give the agency money without conditions.
Rep. Peter King, a former chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, said Boehner needs to find a way to get a bill to the House floor without the divisive immigration provisions.
“There’s no doubt it will pass. … We cannot allow this small group to block it,” King said. He added that once it comes to a vote, “then we really, as Republicans, have to stand behind the speaker and make it clear we’re not going to allow this faction to be dominating and to be impeding what we’re trying to do.”
A senior Democratic congressional aide said Boehner spoke to Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and committed to bringing up a bill without conditions. The person spoke anonymously to relate a private conversation.
Associated Press writers Kimberly Hefling, Donna Cassata and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
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