Rank-and-file House Republicans on Wednesday bashed the Senate GOP’s plan to vote on a “clean” Homeland Security funding bill, arguing they wanted to stand firm in attacking President Obama’s immigration actions.
While a few House Republicans said they were prepared to vote for a bill without the immigration measures, many more loudly criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellSenate faces critical vote on Puerto Rico Blame game begins on Zika funding Menendez rails against House Puerto Rico bill MORE’s (R-Ky.) approach as they left a closed-door conference meeting.
As the clock ticks toward a possible shutdown Saturday, GOP leaders distanced themselves from McConnell’s plan.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan: Benghazi report shows administration's failures Clinton can't escape Benghazi responsibility If 'bipartisanship' is now a dirty word, how about a rebranding? MORE (R-Ohio) told his conference he hadn't spoken to McConnell in two weeks, but plans to do so Wednesday, multiple Republicans leaving the meeting said.
At a news conference after the meeting, Boehner repeated the same talking points he's used for the past several weeks: The House has done its job. It's time for the Senate to act
“Until the Senate does something, we're in a wait-and-see mode,” he said.
A number of Republicans pointed to the injunction a Texas judge issued early last week as a reason to not approve a clean Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spending bill. The judge’s ruling has temporarily halted Obama’s immigration orders from November and the Obama administration requested a stay on the ruling on Monday.
“I don’t see the need of that,” Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) said of McConnell’s new strategy. “We’ve got the courts on our side.”
But other Republicans in the Senate have suggested the court decision represents an escape hatch for their party’s leaders, who can argue that Obama’s 2014 immigration actions cannot go forward, at least for now.
It’s not entirely clear what will happen next in the fight, with just more than 70 hours to go before the agency will be shut down.
To satisfy conservatives in the Senate, McConnell has introduced a separate bill that would defund Obama’s immigration orders from November — while allowing an earlier set of actions from 2012 to stand. Senate Republicans on Tuesday said they would hold a cloture vote on that measure Friday.
McConnell has said he’s willing to vote on Homeland Security funding first, but has not scheduled a vote.
Senate Democrats on Wednesday said they have agreed to support the “clean” DHS funding bill.
“We have a pathway to vote on this tomorrow," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said at a press conference. "We're glad to see that that's happened. We're going to do everything we can to make sure it passes by an overwhelming vote."
Reid said he has already spoken to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) about the plan.
“Right now it's no secret the Republicans in the House don't know what they're going to do,” Reid said. “All eyes now shift to the House of Representatives.”
Boehner may not be speaking much with McConnell, but he has also spoken with Pelosi on the funding fight.
The California Democrat has reached out to Boehner about the importance of preventing a DHS shutdown, said Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), chairman of the Democratic Caucus, though he did not characterize the nature of Boehner's response.
If Boehner chooses to bring a clean funding bill to the floor, Democrats would need to deliver the votes.
Boehner told his conference to have a flexible schedule this weekend, Republicans said, leaving open the possibility of work on Saturday.
Some Republicans, including Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), said they’re prepared to vote for a clean bill.
“It's a good bill,” said Carter, the chairman of the panel that wrote the House Homeland Security funding measure.
“If a clean bill comes here, we have to accept a vote on it,” said Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who has been critical of his colleagues during previous funding showdowns.
King suggested the GOP brand would suffer if the Homeland Security agency was shut down.
“People think we’re crazy. There are terrorist attacks all over the world and we’re talking about closing down Homeland Security. This is like living in a world with crazy people,” King said.
King acknowledged, however, that his view is “probably not” shared by the majority of his conference.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) insisted the public wouldn't be affected by a funding lapse. Nearly 90 percent of DHS employees are considered “essential,” meaning they'd still have to report to work despite a shutdown, albeit without pay. But about 30,000 other DHS workers would be furloughed.
When asked what would happen if Congress misses the Friday deadline, Huelskamp said, “Basically, nothing. Nothing's going to change on Friday night. This is not a shutdown. This is a slowdown of the agency.
“I don't think there'd be any impact on the day-to-day life of Americans. They'll wake up the next morning, all the media will talk about it, and people will say, 'Well, what difference does it make?’” Huelskamp added.
Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who’s close to leadership, was confident Congress will be able to avert a DHS shutdown on Saturday.
“I don’t think we’re going to have any shutdown. I think we’re going to work through the problems,” he said.
This story was updated at 2:27 p.m.