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DHS secretary hoping for ‘some leadership’ in Congress over funding

Greg Nash

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made a last-minute pitch for funding for his department on all five Sunday shows, saying that he hopes someone in Congress “will exercise some leadership.”

“It’s absurd that we’re even having this conversation about Congress’s inability to fund Homeland Security in these challenging times,” Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

{mosads}The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will shut down on Saturday, if Congress does not pass funding. Republicans are looking to attach measures stopping President Obama’s executive actions on immigration, while Democrats are demanding a “clean” funding bill. 

House Republicans have passed a bill that includes a roll back of the immigration measures, and they point to the Senate. But Senate Republicans are unable to overcome a filibuster from Democrats who want a “clean” bill. 

“The thing that, frankly, is frustrating me when I go to the Senate, they say, ‘It’s not us; it’s the House,’ ” Johnson said. And in the House, Johnson said, they say ” ‘We passed our bill; it’s not us.’ “

“I’m hoping someone will exercise some leadership,” he added. 

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that he is “certainly” willing to let the department shut down. “The House has done its job under the Constitution,” he said. “It’s time for the Senate to do their job.” 

On Sunday, Johnson emphasized the consequences from a shutdown of the department in a bid to raise pressure on Congress. 

If the department shuts down, Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” 30,000 workers would be furloughed “including headquarters personnel who I count on daily to stay one step ahead of groups like [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria].”

Workers on the front lines would be showing up for work without pay, Johnson added.

Still, he said he is “optimistic” that Congress will reach a deal to avert a shutdown. “We’ve got good people in Congress who appreciate the importance of a funded Department of Homeland Security like Sen. [John] McCain [R-Ariz.], who I know will be on your show,” Johnson said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” 

Throwing a twist into the debate, a federal judge in Texas last week ruled against Obama’s measures. “This is what appellate courts are for,” Johnson said. 

The administration is likely to file an appeal on Monday. “I expect that we’ll prevail,” Johnson said.

But the ruling has also raised hopes among some Republicans that the judge has provided a way out of the impasse. Republicans can now say the matter should be decided in the courts, not in a battle over Homeland Security funding. 

“I don’t believe we will [shut down],” McCain said on “Face the Nation.” “We now have an exit sign. And that is the federal court decision saying that the president’s actions unilaterally are unconstitutional.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), another Republican pushing to fund the department, also pointed to the court ruling.

“I was very gratified by what the judge ruled,” he said. “At the same time, I do believe in this time where have the kinds of threats that we have, all over the world, we certainly need to make sure that Homeland Security is fully funded and my guess is we’ll figure out a way to make sure that happens this week.”

He did not say how he thought that would happen. 

Senate Republicans are now looking at a new strategy of separating action on Obama’s immigration orders from DHS funding, though it remains unclear if more conservative members would go along with that strategy. 

“We would try to have a vote on just that issue,” said a Senate Republican aide. “Does it have to be addressed as part of DHS, or can it be addressed separately? 

— This report was last updated at 12:04 p.m.

Tags DHS Immigration Jeh Johnson Sunday shows

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