The Senate GOP is under fire for failing to forge a measure to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in advance of its 10-day recess, threatening a shutdown that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had pledged would never happen on his watch, The Washington Post
The House passed legislation funding the department but stripping money for President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration. The bill's stipulations did not pass muster in the Senate, where Democrats blocked its passage on three occasions.
Now Congress has adjourned for a 10-day recess, giving lawmakers just days to forge a DHS measure before the Feb. 27 deadline for the expiration of the current funding arrangement.
Conservatives in the Senate are adamant that any measure includes language to defund the immigration orders, but Democrats insist they will only vote for a clean funding bill.
Earlier this week, McConnell admitted the bill was stuck
but received no sympathy from House Speaker John Boehner, who insisted it was simply a matter of the Senate doing its job.
"It's time for the Senate to do their work," Boehner said Wednesday after a meeting with rank-and-file Republicans
, according to the Post. "You know, in the gift shop out here, they've got these little booklets on how a bill becomes a law."
He added, "Why don't you go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their ass and do something other than voting no?
McConnell has punted the issue back to the House saying, "I think it's clear we can't go forward in the Senate unless you all have heard something I haven't. And so the next move, obviously, is up to the House."
Conservatives appear unconcerned about the possibility of a shutdown, suggesting that it will force the Democrats' hand. But establishment Republicans are concerned that a shutdown will politically backfire on the party, particularly given the department is responsible for security and counterterrorism policy.
"I don't think a shutdown of the department whose purpose is to secure our homeland is a good idea for anybody," Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker told the Post.
Democrats think a shutdown would deeply damage Republicans.
"I think it's a big problem," Illinois Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin told the Post. "They said: We're going to show we can run the trains on time and we are, quote, not scary. So if they start off by jeopardizing funding for the premier agency for America's defense against terrorism — not a good start."
There is still time to avert a shutdown, the Post said, but it would require some compromise on the part of Democrats. One option being considered is to pass another short-term extension of the funding for a few more weeks or months.
But some GOP senators fear that a short-term funding deal would only prolong the paralysis, according to Politico
"We've got to get off this. We've got to get it behind us. We have to at some point bring it to closure," South Dakota GOP Sen. John Thune told Politico. A short-term DHS funding deal "would be a bad outcome for the Senate just in terms of us being able to do other things."
"If we have do a short-term extension, we've got to revisit this," Thune said. "The next time it comes over, it will take another couple weeks."
"It only postpones the problem. It just kicks the can down the road," Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins told Politico. "Another cliff. It doesn't solve anything."
The stalemate is also jeopardizing Republican pledges of smooth governance, a situation many in the GOP are keen to avoid.
"This battle should be ended," Illinois GOP Sen. Mark Kirk told Politico. "When we were given the honor of the majority, we have to govern wisely. Shutdowns are not wise policy for key national security-related departments."
Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn said, "This is the kind of dysfunction that voters repudiated in November. And to sort of fall back into these same bad habits is a little frustrating. But I think it's just a temporary bump in the road."
Meanwhile, after the frustration of three filibusters by Democrats blocking the legislation, some Republican lawmakers have proposed changing the Senate rules so that it is no longer required to attain 60 votes to advance legislation. Others, however, do not think it would be a wise course of action
, according to the Post.
"I don't think that's an option we are looking at right now," Alaska GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan told the Post.
And McConnell's spokesman, Don Stewart, said changing the rules is not an option currently being considered by the majority leader.
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