House GOP huddles to decide next move in shutdown fight

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House Republicans are preparing a series of stopgap proposals to keep the Homeland Security Department running in the event that Congress can't reach an agreement on a longer-term funding bill before Saturday's deadline.

The GOP conference gathered at 5 p.m. to discuss their options, with 31 hours to prevent a shutdown of the department.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he didn't know how long the continuing resolution (CR) for Homeland Security funding would last. A vote could be as soon as Friday, he said.

Asked if extending the funding by a few weeks would help Republicans reach an agreement, the taciturn Rogers held up crossed fingers.

The Senate is expected to vote no later than Friday on a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through September. The Senate bill will not include language reversing President Obama's executive actions on immigration despite objections from House Republicans.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday offered no indication that he will bring the Senate bill to the floor, and the stopgap measures being drafted by Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), chairman of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, could give him some wiggle room.

Carter said the committee has drafted several CRs to buy the Republicans time and prevent an agency shutdown. He predicted Congress would need the additional time to reach a broader agreement.

"We've got various variations of the CR," he said.

Carter declined to say precisely how long GOP leaders might push to extend short-term funding if a broader deal isn't reached, but predicted it would be "less than a month."

The Texas Republican, an author of the House-passed DHS funding proposal, said he'd prefer to pass a clean bill extending the agency's funding through September.

Such legislation would likely win approval in the House, but only with the votes of Democrats. A whip count by The Hill of House Republican votes on a "clean" measure funding the Homeland Security agency suggests the vote would divide House Republicans.

BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE said Thursday he'll disclose the House's plan when the time comes.

“The House passed a bill six weeks ago," he said Thursday. "It’s time for the Senate to do its work.”

Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a Tea Party favorite and co-founder of the new conservative Freedom Caucus, said he didn't think a CR could get through the House.

"Why would we punt if we don't have a plan?" he said.

Carter emphasized that the debate remains in flux, and that he hasn't been in conversations with GOP leaders about their strategy.

"My name is at the bottom of the page on this bill. Other than that, I'm the most in-the-dark person in Congress," he quipped.

Scott Wong and Cristina Marco contributed. 

— Last updated at 5:15 p.m.