Homeland Security chief steps up pressure on Congress
© Greg Nash

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson stepped up his pressure on Congress to fund his agency through the rest of the year, warning Thursday that emergency response efforts will suffer nationwide if there is a shutdown.

Speaking less than 48 hours before the deadline to fund his agency, Johnson argued a shutdown would hamper the department’s work at acting in response to terrorism and natural disasters.

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“This is not just inside-the-Beltway political jousting,” said Johnson, who was flanked by emergency responders from Virginia and Washington, D.C. at the event. “Every mayor, governor, police commissioner and sheriff should be concerned about a failure to fund the Department of Homeland Security. “

If Congress misses the deadline, nearly 90 percent of the agency’s employees will work without pay until funding legislation passes. Another 30,000 will be furloughed.

The Senate is poised to pass a bill funding Johnson’s agency through the end of September.

House Republicans are demanding that language be included in the bill to overturn President Obama’s immigration executive actions. They view support of a clean bill as support for Obama’s actions.

Johnson sought to counter Republican arguments that a shutdown of Homeland Security wouldn’t be a big problem for the country. He cited the last Super Bowl and the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing as events that benefited from his agency’s resources. Without long-term funding, he said future emergency responses would prove less flexible.

“It’s important to fund the courageous and heroic work of the people up here on this stage,” Johnson said of the emergency responders beside him. “Failing to fund our agency has a real impact on national security.”