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Senate Republicans, Democrats Remain Divided On Bill To Fund Homeland Security

Gage Skidmore | Flickr

With the Feb. 27 deadline looming to fund the Department of Homeland Security -- and a weeklong congressional recess approaching -- an end to the impasse over deportation policy seems as elusive as ever.

House Republicans already have passed a nearly $4o billion budget for Homeland Security, but it included controversial provisions to cut funding necessary to implement President Barack Obama’s executive order halting deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants. Senate Democrats have refused to pass a funding bill as long as it contains those provisions.

Despite a meeting today, the Washington Post reported that the top Republican leaders -- House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. -- remain at odds about how best to resolve the situation. Boehner is pushing McConnell to pass the House bill, with the anti-immigration provisions, while McConnell has said it's not clear that the Senate can "move forward."

That's not to say that Senate Republicans support Obama's actions.

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., called the president’s action “executive amnesty,” and he continues to question the president’s legal authority to act on his own. That said, he placed the blame for the impasse on funding Homeland Security with the chamber’s minority.

“Democrats in the Senate continue to be unwilling to debate the funding of the Department of Homeland Security because of the amendments that are critical of the president’s executive actions regarding immigration,” Blunt continues. “You can’t change these things if you won’t debate them, so hopefully we’ll see enough Democrats change their minds on this so we can find a way to move forward.”

Blunt will be joining his colleagues from the Senate Steering Committee and the Republican Study Committee on Thursday at a press conference to discuss Senate Democrats’ continued efforts to filibuster the funding bill.

While she has said she is no fan of the president’s use of an executive order on the immigration issue, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Republicans should debate immigration separately from funding Homeland Security.

“What kind of signal is it sending to the world that we are having trouble funding our department of Homeland Security that does border security, that does airport security, that does port security?” McCaskill asked rhetorically when talking with reporters Wednesday morning.

Senate Democrats have used the potential threat of terrorism from the Islamic State as their sword and shield in the war of words with Republicans on the funding dispute.

“Let’s not play politics with homeland security with ISIS at the door,” said McCaskill.

Republicans engineered this fight last December when they insisted on funding Homeland Security through a "continuing resolution" rather than including the department in the so-called omnibus spending plan with a budget through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.  That “CRomnibus” bill provided funding for Homeland Security only until Feb. 27.

McCaskill said she hopes Republicans will have a change of heart by Friday -- before lawmakers take a week-long break -- and allow a vote on a clean funding measure.  “I hope they’re feeling the pressure," she said. "When the Wall Street Journal editorializes against the Republicans, you know something is going on.”

Earlier this week the newspaper, which traditionally supports Republicans, said, “The GOP has marched itself into another box canyon.”  The editorial also chastised the new Republican majority in Congress, saying “the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.” 

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