WASHINGTON (AP) – After a weeks-long political struggle, legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department is headed back to the House without restrictions conservatives demanded on President Barack Obama's immigration policies. Even so, it stands a good chance of passage.
Speaker John Boehner and other House GOP leaders declined Monday night to say what their next move would be in a controversy that has exposed deep divisions inside the party's ranks. But even Republican officials conceded the leadership was running out of options apart from a capitulation to Obama and the Democrats.
House Democrats were eager for a vote on the measure.
"The world is far too dangerous for House Republicans to show so little regard for the security of American families. Republicans should join with Democrats to keep the American people safe, protect our homeland, and bring a clean, long-term DHS funding bill to a vote immediately," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
She issued her statement after Senate Democrats had blocked a Republican move to convene formal negotiations between the two houses. Because the GOP holds a majority in both, the result would inevitably have been a bill that included funds for the agency as well as steps to roll back presidential directives that have shielded millions of immigrants from deportation.
Democrats said they wouldn't permit that to happen — and ignored Republican complaints that they were ignoring 200 years of congressional tradition by refusing to permit formal negotiations.
The vote in the Senate was 47-43, 13 less than the 60 votes needed to overcome Democratic opposition to formal talks.
The day's events sent the bill back to the House, where the rules generally permit any lawmaker of either party to demand a yes-or-no 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.
Ironically, a federal court ruling has temporarily blocked the administration from implementing the new immigration rules. The administration has appealed the decision and the ultimate result of the legal challenge is unknown.
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 department which has major anti-terrorism duties, is also responsible for border control.
Whatever the final result of the struggle, controversy over the legislation 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.
Even so, 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.
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