GOP infighting grows over DHS funding

GOP infighting between the House and Senate is growing as Republicans work to prevent a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department at the end of the month.

House conservatives on Thursday pointedly criticized Senate Republicans for saying a House-approved bill funding the agency and reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration was dead in the Senate.

ADVERTISEMENT
“If we're going to allow seven Democratic senators to decide what the agenda is of the House Republican conference, of the Senate Republican majority, then we might as well just give them the chairmanships, give them the leadership of the Senate,” Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) said at an event held with the Heritage Foundation.

He and other conservatives called for Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellMcConnell: Trump needs to 'catch up fast' on fundraising McConnell dodges on whether Trump is qualified to be president Sunday shows preview: Next steps after Trump upheaval MORE (Ky.) to gut the Senate’s filibuster if necessary to move the House bill to President Obama. With Democrats objecting to the immigration language, Republicans in the Senate are far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome procedural hurdles.

Senate Republicans quickly fired back at Labrador, arguing the suggestion was unrealistic.

“We should change 200 years of precedent?” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told The Hill. “No. If you change it for one issue, then you change it forever.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who previously served in the House, said the upper chamber shouldn’t change its rules because the move could backfire for the GOP.

“Any time you start taking 51 votes and declaring 51 as 60, and use the nuclear option, you change the filibuster forever on it,” he said. “It’s one thing to change the filibuster on nominations, it’s another to change it on legislative action. The Senate should have a protection for the minority. Both parties will be in the minority at different points. We need to be able to protect the rights of the minority.”

Tensions between House and Senate Republicans are nothing new.

Ever since House Republicans took over the majority in 2010, they have battled with their Senate colleagues over tactics.

The most notable fight came during the 16-day government shutdown of 2013, when some Senate Republicans openly complained that House Republicans were hurting their party by using a government-funding bill as an effort to defund ObamaCare.

Senate Republicans were also upset at some of their own members — most notably Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who was seen as leading the insurrection.

Bad feelings have reemerged this week with the Senate repeatedly failing to move the House bill funding the Department of Homeland Security. GOP senators have said it is clear the bill doesn’t have the votes to pass the Senate, but House Republicans say their work on the issue is done.

While GOP leaders in both chambers have sought to turn their fire on Senate Democrats, the friendly GOP fire isn’t hard to spot.

Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) told The Hill on Thursday that both Senate Democrats and Republicans are to blame for the problem.

“Both of them. If they're not willing to support that bill, they're the problem,” Yoho said.

McConnell extended an olive branch late Thursday by making a procedural move to bring the House bill to the floor again for another try when the Congress comes back to Washington the week of Feb. 23.

Sen. Mark KirkMark KirkDuckworth settles retaliation lawsuit The Trail 2016: Berning embers Senate Dems link court fight to Congressional Baseball Game MORE (R-Ill.), who has been calling for a vote on a “clean” DHS spending bill stripped of the immigration language, said maybe next week's five-day recess could change some minds.

“Coming back from recess, hopefully people are well-grounded about the basics. I think the American people are pretty on-edge about our international security. My hope is when you get them away from the partisan fires of D.C., they will want to pass a clean DHS bill.”

But it seems unlikely Democrats will bend to the House GOP demands after the recess, and House Republicans all week have taken the position there is no reason for them to compromise.

That’s raised the likelihood of a partial government shutdown that is worrying Senate Republicans, which will do nothing to defuse the tensions between the chambers.

“It’s not livable. It’s not acceptable,” Kirk said of the shutdown possibility. “When you’re in the majority, you have to govern. You have to govern responsibly. And shutdowns are not responsible.”