Politics

Senate rejects proposal to negotiate with House on DHS funding, handing issue back to Boehner

FILE: Feb. 27, 2015, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.

FILE: Feb. 27, 2015, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington.  (AP)

The Senate on Monday rejected a House measure for the chambers to meet and negotiate on a funding bill for the Homeland Security Department that included immigration provisions -- sending the long-lasting crisis back to the GOP-led lower chamber.

The vote to close debate on the issue in the GOP-led Senate was 47-43, with the chamber's Republican leaders failing to get all 54 members and at least six Democrats to vote with them to cross the 60-vote threshold.

The Senate also took a second vote to permanently shelve the House measure, which needed only a simple majority and passed 58-31.

“We are just days removed from ISIS arrests in Brooklyn and only five days away from a shutdown,” New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer said after the vote. “Today, Democrats defeated further attempts by Republicans to play politics with national security. This bill is already negotiated by both parties and both houses. It's time for Republicans to stop trying to tie funding for DHS to their battle on immigration."

The measure to send the House and Senate members to conference to negotiate on the bill originated Friday in the House, after the chamber passed a one-week spending bill to save the agency from a partial shutdown at midnight.

Earlier Monday, House Speaker John Boehner left open the possibility of passing a long-term funding without the immigration provisions attached, as his alternatives 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 on Monday. Officials in both parties predict it would pass, and end the recurring threat of a partial agency shutdown.

Democrats said they believe the speaker eventually would relent and permit a vote on the bill, which conservatives oppose and President Obama is eager to sign.

"I would hope and expect that we will have a vote" this week, said Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-ranking House Democrat.

House Republicans needed help from Democrats on Friday because 52 members voted no.

Boehner's office has denied that the speaker cut a deal with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in which she would provide the votes in exchange for House Republicans allowing a vote this week on a funding bill without the immigration provisions.

“There is no deal,” Pelosi said Monday.

She said after the Senate vote: “House Republicans’ anti-immigrant riders are beneath the dignity of a conference committee. It is long overdue for House Republicans to stop the obstruction of full funding for the Department of Homeland Security.”

A decision by Boehner to permit a vote on the stand-alone funding bill would mark the complete failure of a Republican strategy designed to make funding for the Department of Homeland Security 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.

DHS, which has major anti-terrorism duties, is also responsible for border control.

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