By Rebecca Shabad - 02/27/15 10:01 PM EST
A partial government shutdown was narrowly avoided late Friday evening as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a surprise move to back legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for one week.
Pelosi’s support helped Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE (R-Ohio) move the one-week bill through the House in a 357-60 vote just after 10 p.m., with 55 Republicans and 5 Democrats voting against it. The Senate passed the one-week funding bill in a voice vote.
President Obama signed the bill just before midnight.
Earlier in the day, House Democratic leaders had whipped their members against legislation that would have funded DHS for three weeks, and the bill failed 203-224.
The defeat of the three-week bill was a humiliating defeat for Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRepublican Study Committee elders back Harris for chairman Dems to GOP: Help us fix ObamaCare The disorderly order of presidential succession MORE (R-Ohio) and left his leadership team scrambling for a path forward as a bloc of their conservative members refused to vote for any funding bill that did not reverse President Obama’s executive actions on deferred deportations for illegal immigrants.
Pelosi came to the rescue late Friday evening, sending a letter to Democrats urging them to vote for a one-week continuing resolution (CR) of Homeland Security funding without any immigration riders.
“Thank you for your cooperation on the vote earlier today. Our unity was a strong statement that the Department of Homeland Security must be fully funded,” Pelosi wrote in the letter to Democrats. “We are asking you once again to help advance passage of the Senate passed, long-term funding of DHS by voting in favor of a 7-day patch that will be on suspension in the House tonight.”
Pelosi announced the letter in a 90-second press conference in the Capitol, where she was flanked by all of her top lieutenants but didn't take questions and didn't explain why she and the Democrats — who were adamantly opposed to a three-week extension — suddenly reversed course to accept the one-week deal just a few hours later.
The Democratic leaders declined to comment on whether their agreement to the seven-day deal came with assurances that the House would vote on the Senate's “clean” DHS bill providing funding through September.
Asked that question, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) eluded it.
"You would be right to try to analyze why we would do what we're doing," Hoyer said, declining further comment.
Pelosi in her letter assured Democrats that, “Your vote tonight will assure that we will vote for full funding next week.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel firmly denied that a deal was cut with Democrats on the clean funding bill.
"We did not make any such 'deal' or promise," Steel said.
GOP leaders, for their part, were mum on the next steps. The one-week funding bill only pushes the fight into next week, when Republicans had hoped to focus on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint meeting of Congress.
Centrist Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who serves on the Appropriations subcommittee focused on Homeland Security, said the one-week stopgap will give the House time to take up a longer-term DHS funding bill already passed by the Senate.
"I think a lot of people around here have to get serious about governing," Dent told reporters Friday night. "It's time for all these D.C. games to end, all these palace coups or whatever the hell is going on around here, has to end, and we have to get down to the business of governing."
"This is about protecting the country right now," Dent added. "We're living in a time of enhanced, increased terror activity around North America and around the world. We need to get on with the business of funding Homeland Security."
The fight over DHS funding took several twists and turns during the week, starting with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump slams Obama for ‘shameful’ 9/11 bill veto GOP chairman lobbies against overriding Obama on 9/11 bill Black Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP MORE’s (R-Ky.) decision to separate the fight over Obama’s immigration actions from the fight over DHS funding.
McConnell’s move paved the way for passage Friday of a “clean” bill funding DHS through September, which senators approved in a 68-31 vote.
Boehner had for two days refused to say whether the House would take up the clean bill. With the shutdown deadline fast approaching, he adopted a two-pronged strategy, with the House voting to approve a conference committee that could negotiate a final DHS bill with the Senate.
Now that DHS has been funded for one week, McConnell is expected to file cloture on the motion to form a conference committee on Monday afternoon, according to Democrats.
Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidBlack Caucus demands Flint funding from GOP Report: Intelligence officials probing Trump adviser's ties to Russia White House preps agencies for possible shutdown MORE (D-Nev.) has vowed he would block a conference, however, fearing it would allow GOP to reattach immigration riders to a longer-term DHS funding bill.
"We will not go to conference on some jury-rigged situation they send back," Reid said from the Senate floor Friday morning. "The Senate is proving there is broad bipartisan support for a good bill that will fund the government and keep the government running."
If Democrats stay united against the conference committee, Republicans will again be at a stalemate, lacking the 60 votes that would be needed to break the filibuster.
That could leave the “clean” funding bill as the only way out.
— Updated at 11:51 p.m.