As the White House on Tuesday called for Republican House members to "ensure that the Department of Homeland Security is properly funded," GOP members fired back that "we have done our work" and it was now up to Senate Democrats to take responsibility for the funding of DHS.
This sharp exchange took place one day after a ruling by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hannen striking down President Barack Obama's executive orders that make it easier for an estimated 4.3 million illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.
In stating the administration’s disagreements with the ruling and its belief it will eventually be overturned, White House press secretary Josh Earnest also took the opportunity to again criticize House Republicans for voting to withhold funding from the units within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are charged with executing the president’s controversial executive action.
"You’ve heard me say on a couple of occasions it’s hard to imagine that there is a good time to muck around in the funding of the Department of Homeland Security, but now seems like a particularly bad time to do it," the president’s top spokesman said.
Earnest went on to charge that "It is completely irresponsible to allow a political dispute to interfere with the ability of the United States Congress to fund the Department of Homeland Security.
"And it certainly is not going to be good for the ongoing efforts to protect the American people. And it certainly isn’t fair to the hundreds of thousands of Department of Homeland Security employees who, a couple weeks from now, may be facing the prospect of going to work to keep the country safe but not getting a paycheck for it. That doesn’t seem fair and it certainly isn’t in the best interest of the United States of America," Earnest said.
Reached by Newsmax soon after Earnest’s salvo, House GOP Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer of Indiana took issue with the White House press secretary’s description of what had happened in Congress and the intentions of the Republican majority in the House.
"We don't want to see DHS shut down," Messer said, saying the vote taken in the House "would only deny funding to those [DHS] employees hired to carry out the president's unconstitutional orders.
"Judge Hannen has validated what Republicans in the House have said all along — that the president's executive orders were unconstitutional and that he doesn't have the power to provide amnesty."
Messer said that action on funding for DHS was now in the hands of the Senate where, in his words, "Senate Democrats are refusing to debate, refusing to offer amendments, and refusing to allow the proposal to come to a vote, even though eight Democratic senators have publicly said they don't agree with the president's actions and the president himself has said 22 times he doesn't have the authority to do this."
Noting that his own state’s Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is one of the eight who voiced disagreement with the Obama’s executive action, Messer told Newsmax how the seven-member Republican House delegation from Indiana sent Donnelly a letter calling on him to help bring the DHS funding measure passed by the House to a vote in the Senate.
"It takes 60 votes to bring it to a vote on the Senate floor or send it to committee," Messer said. "We've done our work. It's time for the Senate to do its work."
Regarding reports that some of his colleagues now wanted total funding of DHS following the court ruling, Messer said without hesitation: "The House is united in support of legislation we passed.
"We should continue the course and not fund the president's unconstitutional actions at least until there is a final court ruling."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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