House Speaker John Boehner is refusing to promise a vote in his chamber if the Senate passes a bill that would fund DHS but doesn’t reverse President Barack Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigration. He's facing tremendous pressure from conservatives in his chamber not to go along with McConnell's plan to fund the agency and drop the immigration battle. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has said he won’t allow a bill to move forward in his chamber without Boehner’s assurances the House will vote on it.
So with only days remaining until DHS funding expires Friday, Congress has hit another impasse. And it’s shaping up to be a Republican versus Republican fight. Boehner wouldn’t say Wednesday if Congress is going to avoid a shutdown of DHS. “I’m waiting for the Senate to act,” he said, a line he’s repeated nearly ad nauseum for the past month. “Senate Democrats have stood in the way now for three weeks over a bill that should have been debated and passed, so until the Senate does something, we are in a wait and see mode.”
Reid is showing signs of relenting and allowing a vote on spending in the Senate even if Boehner won’t guarantee the same on his side of the Capitol. But if Reid holds out, it could create political backlash for Democrats, who would then be seen as the logjam causing the shutdown.
There are political calculations on all sides. Republicans and Democrats don’t want to be blamed if the agency does shut down at the end of the week. While little will occur in terms of providing protection to the nation since most DHS employees will have to continue working without the guarantee of a paycheck, being seen as shutting down the agency tasked with protecting people while terrorist attacks continue around the world could be bad politics.
House Republicans decided last year to use DHS funding as leverage to try to force Obama to reverse his executive orders that would legalize 5 million undocumented immigrants. At this point, conservatives are arguing that simply funding DHS without fighting the president on immigration would be a retreat.
McConnell has been consistent in saying he doesn’t want to see DHS funding lapse at the end of the week. He has insisted the agency will not be allowed to shutdown. And as evidence of his desire, he announced Tuesday that he will allow the Senate to vote on a bill that funds DHS and doesn’t address the immigration orders. To satisfy those conservatives who still want to fight the president, McConnell moved a second bill that only addresses immigration.
But so far it doesn’t seem Boehner is ready to settle the matter and move on. He runs a deep risk within his own conference if he allows McConnell’s plan to move forward. Conservatives in the House have expressed outrage at the possibility of dropping the immigration fight and Boehner could quickly find a rebellion that calls into question whether he can hold onto the speaker gavel.
Illustrating the growing schism between Boehner and McConnell, the two men haven’t spoken to each other in two weeks. Boehner dismissed that as a concern, saying that their staffs have communicated.
“Listen, Sen. McConnell has a big job to do, so do I,” Boehner said. “Our staffs have been talking back and forth, but at the end of the day, I’m waiting for the Senate to act.”