House takes key step to avoid Homeland Security shutdown

 

The House moved a step closer to preventing a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security Friday by voting 228-191 to approve a motion to hold a conference with the Senate to negotiate a deal.

The successful vote sets up a vote on a measure funding the department for three weeks. 

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If that vote is successfull, the Senate is expected to also approve the three-week funding measure. 

Without new funding, Homeland Security would shut down at midnight.

Republicans have been scrambling to win votes for the three-week bill, which would not include language overturning President Obama's actions on immigration. Some conservatives are opposed to approving a funding bill of any length if it does not reverse Obama's actions. 

The order of the two votes — the conference vote first, then the funding measure — is significant.
 
At about 3 p.m., the House began an hour of debate on a Democratic motion to instruct conferees. That could give Republican leaders more time to count votes. 
 
The Senate earlier on Friday in a 68-31 vote approved funding for the agency through September. 
 
By passing the measure to launch negotiations with the Senate, the House can no longer vote on the Senate funding bill on Friday without Senate action.
 
That could win more support for the short-term funding plan from House Democrats, who have vowed to vote against it. By voting against the three-week funding plan, they would no longer be putting more pressure on House Republicans to agree to the Senate bill, but they would be increasing the likelihood of a shutdown on Saturday.
 
President Obama would sign a short-term funding bill for the agency if one is approved by Congress, the White House said Friday. That could provide further cover for Democrats in the Hosue to back it. 

“If the president is faced with a choice of having the Department of Homeland Security shut down or fund the Department for the short term, the president is not going to allow the agency to shut down,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said.

“So the truth is, if the president is faced with a choice between the short term extension and shutting down the Department of Homeland Security, he will sign the short-term extension,” he added minutes later.

Democratic leaders decried the GOP move.
 
"Unfortunately, the Republicans have changed the sequencing of the consideration of legislation so that if we pass a motion to go to conference, the legislation which we could pass, which would be the ... balance-of-the-year funding for the Department of Homeland Security, would no longer be in possession of the House," Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). 

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m.