Homeland Security funding deal elusive as new deadline nears

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats appear unwilling to help Republican House Speaker John Boehner quell a revolt in his party ranks that could lead to a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security.

Boehner is demanding negotiations with Democrats on a funding bill that rolls back President Barack Obama’s immigration policies. Senate Democrats say they are unwilling to even consider such a step.

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.

Conservative Republicans who object to Obama’s executive actions on immigration have held up approving another year of funding. Spending for the department is now set to expire this Friday.

If Congress fails to act before the new deadline, most of the department’s employees who are considered essential would have to work without pay until lawmakers resolve the situation. The department oversees U.S. borders.

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 had 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.”

Republican Rep. Devin Nunes also criticized conservatives for their stance on funding the agency.

“I prefer to be in the arena voting than trying to placate a small group of phony conservative Members who have no credible policy proposals and no political strategy to stop Obama’s lawlessness,” Nunes said in a blistering statement.

Conservatives angered by a three-week extension with no rollback of Obama’s directives last November to spare millions of immigrants from deportation combined with Democrats insisting on full-year funding to sink the legislation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, agreed to a one-week extension and told her Democratic rank-and-file in a letter to back the seven-day patch because “your vote will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.”

Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, said Sunday there was no such deal.

But privately, a senior Democratic congressional aide said Boehner spoke to Pelosi and Reid and committed to bringing up a bill without conditions. The person spoke anonymously to relate a private conversation


Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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