Senate and House Republicans are fighting over who should move first to break the stalemate over funding the Department of Homeland Security.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday the House will have to pass a new bill because the Senate can’t pass the House’s initial legislation, which would overturn President Obama’s executive actions on immigration shielding millions from deportation.
Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE’s (R-Ohio) office pushed back, arguing there is “little point in additional House action.”
McConnell’s and BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE’s offices both put the blame on Senate Democrats, who have repeatedly blocked the House bill from progressing by filibustering procedural motions.
Sixty votes would be needed to move the House bill forward, and Republicans have won no more than 53.
“It’s clear we can’t get on the bill. We can’t offer amendments to the bill. And I think it would be pretty safe to say we’re stuck because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” McConnell said.
Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, said “the pressure is on Senate Democrats” who claim to oppose Obama’s immigration action but “are filibustering a bill to stop it.”
Senate Democrats and the White House are showing no signs that they are feeling any pressure.
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is scheduled to end after Feb. 27, and Democrats say Republicans are jeopardizing the nation’s security with a fight over a policy issue. They are demanding the GOP agree to a clean funding bill stripped of measures attacking Obama’s immigration actions.
“The Republican majority is twiddling its thumbs as it gets closer and closer to shutting down DHS,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles SchumerThe Trail 2016: Unity at last This week: Congress eyes the exits in dash to recess Former Gillibrand aide wins NY House primary MORE (D-N.Y.). “We Democrats have pushed for a clean DHS funding bill followed by a robust debate on immigration reform. But the Republicans have insisted on sticking to their hostage-taking tactics.”
Rank-and-file Republicans echoed the comments from their leaders, suggesting the impasse is likely to extend until after next week’s congressional recess. Congress would then return to Washington the week of Feb. 23 with only five working days to reach a solution.
Asked about McConnell’s remarks, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteCongress leaving for seven-week recess Bipartisan House group to work on police issues House conservatives 'committed' to impeaching IRS chief MORE (R-Va.) told The Hill: “We’ve acted. We’ve acted.”
But Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeVulnerable GOP senators praise Kaine GOP Sen. Flake offers Trump rare praise Booker denounces ‘lock her up' chants MORE (R-Ariz.) said the House needs to send legislation to the Senate that has a chance of passing, saying it’s “a matter of arithmetic.”
“My view is we would be much better off actually debating immigration legislation than debating this spending bill,” he said.
Republicans last week made a point of showing the House they were trying to pass their bill.
For three days in a row, the GOP brought the House bill to the floor. On all three occasions, it failed.
Senate GOP leaders expressed some frustration with their House brethren.
“They’d like to leave the hot potato with us and I think we’ve made pretty clear that we’ve tried our best and the math doesn’t work,” said Senate Republican Whip John CornynJohn CornynGOP senators to donors: Stick with us regardless of Trump Hopes dim for mental health deal Overnight Finance: Senate punts on Zika funding | House panel clears final spending bill | Biz groups press Treasury on tax rules | Obama trade rep confident Pacific deal passes this year MORE (Texas).
“The question is, what does the House need in order to pass something. We’ve had three cloture votes. It’s not clear to me that a fourth, fifth or sixth cloture vote is going to move the needle,” he added.
Republicans have vowed not to allow a partial shutdown, but the chances for one are growing by the day. GOP senators say a short-term continuing resolution appears the most likely scenario to avoid a shutdown.
Such a scenario would punt the debate for a month, allowing more time for lawmakers to hash out a new deal out — even if a consensus appears unlikely, GOP senators said.
Still, it’s not entirely clear that a short-term measure would pass the House. Conservatives opposed to a clean bill that does nothing to attack Obama on immigration could reject it, as could Democrats who want a clean bill funding the agency through the end of the year.
The bet on a short-term measure, however, would be that enough lawmakers will want to avoid an agency shutdown.
Scott Wong contributed.