WASHINGTON -- A bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security is expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support -- but the House won't vote on it. Instead, the House will pass a stopgap measure that avoids a shutdown that would otherwise begin on Friday at midnight, but which funds DHS for only three weeks.
The GOP effort to move the deadline seems to be an attempt to position Democrats to take the blame if the agency tasked with overseeing the nation’s security shuts down. Even some Republicans were skeptical that the public would buy that line.
“Politically, it’s going to kill us,” Republican Rep. Pete King, of New York, said. “No one is going to believe us. They saw the  shutdown. We’re the ones who are going to get blamed for it.”
Pennsylvania Republican Charlie Dent echoed King’s sentiment, saying the new plan isn’t going to work and is only going to leave Republicans back where they started. “What’s the point?” Dent said. “Bad tactics yield bad outcomes. Self-delusion yields self-destruction. We’ve engaged up to this point in tactical malpractice. At some point, we’re going to vote on the negotiated Homeland Security Appropriations bill.”
Dent added: “Some folks just have a harder time facing political reality than others. I understand where this is heading, I think some people want to be able to save face."
The Senate will vote early Friday morning on its Homeland funding bill. The House is expected to move the short-term funding bill on Friday as well, and deliver it to the Senate in time to avert the shutdown. House Democrats are organizing to oppose the short-term funding measure. And both moderate and conservative Republicans are voicing opposition, setting up what will likely be a razor-thin margin for passage.
"The House Democratic leadership is whipping against this bill," a leadership aide said. "If House Republicans want to end up with another manufactured crisis that risks our national security in a matter of days they can do it with 218 votes of their own."
House Speaker John Boehner is under immense pressure from conservatives in his caucus to force President Obama to abandon the executive orders he has signed on immigration that will provide legal status to 5 million undocumented immigrants and Dreamers. Boehner has tied funding for DHS to reversing those executive orders. But when that plan hit an impasse in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abandoned the effort. He struck a deal with Minority Leader Harry Reid to remove the immigration elements and pass a bill that just simply funds DHS, known as a “clean bill.”
Boehner isn’t going along with McConnell’s plan to end the possibility of a shutdown. In addition to funding the agency for three weeks, Boehner is going to push for a process known as a conference. In a conference, both chambers appoint negotiators to develop a compromise bill.
Reid has already said he will block the creation of a conference. That’s because he would lose all of his leverage to block changes to immigration policy and leave Obama with being forced to use a veto. If in three weeks, when the funding runs out again, the sticking point is that Reid won't agree to a conference, Republican leaders hope that the Democrats will be blamed for the shutdown.
But even some of the most conservative members of the House aren’t enthusiastic. “Without the conference we’re just punting and passing the baton on to something else,” Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, said. “It’s an effort to punt like Republicans like to do."