WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Wednesday that his party made a mistake by picking a fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should bring up a “clean” bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded.
“I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding,” the Illinois senator said in the Capitol. “I think it’s the wrong battle for us at the wrong time.”
Does the GOP share blame for the impasse over DHS?
“It does,” Kirk said. “Had I been consulted, which I wasn’t, I don’t think we should have ever attached these issues to DHS funding. I always thought the burden of being in the majority is the burden of governing.”
Kirk, who faces a potentially tough reelection battle in 2016 in Obama’s home state, also criticized Democrats for filibustering House-passed legislation to keep DHS funded and overturn Obama’s immigration moves. He said the battle won’t hurt his reelection bid.
Asked by TPM if McConnell should allow a vote on a “clean” DHS funding bill without the immigration provisions, Kirk said, “Yeah, I think in the end — yeah,” and flashed a thumbs up. That makes him the first Republican senator to call on his leaders to back away from the immigration fight.
House and Senate GOP leaders are at an impasse, with each saying it’s incumbent on the other chamber to make the next move to avoid a partial shutdown of DHS on February 27. Conservative activists are keeping up the pressure on Republicans not to blink. Anxieties are growing that Congress will fail to act in time.
Kirk’s comments reflect a marked change in tune from one day earlier, when he excoriated Democrats over their handling of the issue. “The Republicans — if there is a successful attack during a DHS shutdown — we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office and say, ‘You are responsible for these dead Americans,'” he said Tuesday, as quoted by Politico.